SUNDA Y, A UGUST 23, 2009

Interview: Steve Marsh
Steve Marsh is a name long associated with Dungeons & Dragons, having worked on two supplements to OD&D and the Expert Rulebook published in 1981. He's also a friend of Sandy Petersen, creator of Call of Cthulhu, with whom he shares a longtime fascination with the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I had the opportunity to ask Mr Marsh a few brief questions about his involvement in both the hobby and the industry and he was kind enough to reply with the answers below. 1. How did you become involved in the hobby of roleplaying? I had tried to come up with my own system, working from boardgames and The Golden Bough and did not get very far. One day I sat down next to Sandy Petersen in a class at BYU, saw his D&D rule books, and started asking questions. 2. It's interesting that you tried to construct your own roleplaying game before you'd actually seen the D&D rulebooks. Do you recall why you tried to do this? Had you heard of D&D beforehand? It was 1969 or so, I was just starting High School, had never played miniatures, but I had encountered some Avalon Hill/SPI boardgames (and subscribed to Strategy & Tactics for years). D&D wouldn't come out until 1974, and I wanted to play a game. I had a mythos. I wanted a game, but did not get very far (I was trying to make unit counters work in the place of miniatures, which I had never seen). 3. You were given special thanks in Supplements II and III to OD&D. What were your contributions to those two books? I did the underwater encounters, monsters and some other material in Blackmoor and a character class I designed was taken apart and turned into the psionic powers in Eldritch Wizardry. 4. So the introduction of psionics into D&D is your fault then? Kind of, I wanted a character class, but the editor decided that the abilities belonged available to everyone, except for elves (I was 5'2" at the time and built like a wrestler, because I was a wrestler, and had more sympathy with dwarves than elves, in case you are curious). 5. How did you come to be hired at TSR and what were your responsibilities at the company? Gary wanted me to visit, so I worked a summer. I did Judges Guild product reviews, wrote the Expert Rulebook and did the minigame Saga. 6. So how did you meet Gary Gygax in the first place? Correspondence. Then face to face years later when I spent a summer working at TSR. We got together at Dragoncon in Fort Worth and introduced each other to our wives even later. 7. Speaking of the Expert Rulebook, what was your role in bringing that particular product to publication? They had already decided to do it and Tom Moldvay had finished the book that went before it. I was supposed to pull things together and get it written.

8. Were you more of a developer/editor than a designer then or did you and David Cook work together closely in the writing of the rulebook? We were in the same room at TSR, but it wasn't seen as that difficult, though everyone felt free to kibitz and make comments, even the artist (no one liked the idea of hairy rhinos being intelligent) ... 9. You contributed to Monsters of Myth, showing us a little of your campaign world's unique characteristics, including its take on Chaos, which had a distinctly Lovecraftian quality to it. Would you consider yourself a big fan of Lovecraft and, if so, how have his writings influenced your gaming? I like Cthulhloid menaces, though I'm not always a believer in their not being able to be beaten. My home brew game was the originator for Call of Cthulhu according to Sandy [Petersen --JDM], but it provided as much to that game as a pair of dice would have, Sandy did everything of significance from his own work. 10. Speaking of Lovecraft, is there any chance you're related to Captain Obed Marsh of Innsmouth, Massachusetts? All the Marsh families in the United States before WWII are related to each other as descendants of John Marsh of the William and Mary Company (he was a bondservant with that group). 11. Do you still roleplay and, if so, what games do you play nowadays? I play over at Sandy Petersen's from time to time, not as often as I would like. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM 8 comments Labels: cthulhu, history, interview, marsh, tsr

THURSDA Y, A UGUST 20, 2009

Another Kask Video Inteview
Here's another GenCon video interview with Tim Kask, where he talks about his initiation into the hobby, as well as the forgotten endgame of Dungeons & Dragons. Good stuff.

Posted by James Maliszewski at 11:35 PM Labels: interview, kask

7 comments

Tim Kask Video Interview
Markus Siebler was kind enough to pass along a link to this video interview with Tim Kask by Fear the Boot. It's a very interesting, if brief, interview that includes a mention of the company that he, Jim Ward, and Frank Mentzer are in the midst of founding. From my perspective, I found the fact that he was running an adventure for a proper old school party of 12+ participants. I remember fondly the days when my friends and I, along with guys we barely knew, used to plunge headlong into dungeons. Half the fun of those days was getting the party to work well together. Sometimes I can't help but feel that the ever-shrinking number of participants in most campaigns is another contributing factor to the death of the Old Ways.

Posted by James Maliszewski at 1:38 PM Labels: interview, kask, other blogs

10 comments

SA TURDA Y, A UGUST 8, 2009

Interview: Steve Winter
Steve Winter worked at TSR for nearly twenty years as an editor, developer, and creative director. Along with David Cook, he was very heavily involved in the production of the Second Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and remained with TSR throughout that edition's reign, shepherding many of its products to release. Mr Winter was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his time at TSR, particularly about the process of creating both Second Edition and other D&D products from that era. 1. How did you become involved in the hobby of roleplaying? Like pretty much everyone else at that time, I just stumbled into it. I was always interested in games and puzzles, especially mazes. I started playing Avalon Hill wargames in high school. The big strategic games were fun as puzzles, but it was Tobruk that really hooked me. It's an ultratactical tank combat game. You roll dice to track every shot fired. I hadn't heard of roleplaying yet, but Tobruk was almost like roleplaying a tank commander. When I headed for Iowa State University as a journalism major, I landed a gig as an editor on the college newspaper. One of my first jobs was proofreading classified ads. That's where I read about the Iowa State Gamers club. It sounded like a good place to find wargamers, so I went to a meeting. A few people were playing Avalon Hill and SPI games, but most were gathered around a grad student who was maniacally sketching rooms and corridors and monsters on a blackboard. That was my introduction to D&D. The DM at the blackboard was Corbin. Take away his glasses and shoes and he looked exactly like the centaur from the cover of the original Monster Manual. Corbin would stand in front of a blackboard like a professor and run enormous dungeon crawls with 15 or 20 players at a time. A few of the players had high-level characters (as in, level 5 or so). The rest of us played 1st- and 2nd-level henchmen -- NPCs, essentially -- and we died like flies.

We didn't even name our characters until they reached 2nd level. It was nothing to burn through two or three characters in an afternoon. Your goal was to live long enough to become a real member of the adventuring party and not just another nameless corpse on the heap. The only characters who got respect from the higher-level PCs were clerics. As long as you had a healing spell, you were useful. Otherwise, there was no pity in Corbin's dungeons. Low-level characters were there to open doors, peek around corners, and walk down corridors ahead of the heroes, poking everything within reach with a 10-foot pole. 2. You were a newspaper reporter before you became involved in the RPG industry. Do you think your background in journalism adequately prepared you for the crazy world of game design? Yes and no. Yes because the industry badly needed a dose of professionalism in those days. I think that I was the first person hired at TSR who had actual job experience in writing and editing. Several people had English degrees, including a few who'd been teachers, and I'd never minimize what a tough job that is. But as a reporter, you write every day, and the deadline is king. On top of that, journalists are trained to write for clarity and directness. Flowery phrases and clever wordplay are things to avoid. The same is true in games; the language needs to be direct and clear. On the other hand, I don't know what would adequately prepare someone for working at a place like TSR in those early years. Those of us in R&D complained a lot about people in other parts of the company who had no qualifications for the jobs they were doing, but really, none of us did. We were inventing the RPG hobby and industry on the fly; how do you prepare for that? In R&D, our chief qualifications were that we knew and loved AD&D, we had some gift for words or art, and we were bursting with imagination. Beyond that, the biggest measure of whether you had "what it takes" was whether you could keep up. 3. How did you become employed by TSR? I was working as a city-desk reporter for the Journal Star newspaper in Peoria, Illinois, playing D&D and The Fantasy Trip as much as possible, and doing some writing for The Space Gamer magazine. One day I spotted an ad in The Dragon (#47, the issue with Zeb's "Crimefighters" in it) -- TSR was looking for editors. It seemed like a golden opportunity, so I sent a resume. The interview process was an adventure in itself, involving two separate car breakdowns, but at the end of it, I got the job. Doug Blume, who was head of personnel at the time, told me that they had hundreds of applicants, but I was the only one with professional editing and publishing experience. So it was pretty mundane, really. I saw an ad, I applied, I got the job. 4. One of your earliest credits is as an editor on module I1, Dwellers of the Forbidden City, by David Cook, which is one of my favorite modules of all time. Can you tell us a little about the editing process at TSR back in those days? Where did editing fit into the production process? The process was less compartmentalized then than it would become. People were labeled as designers and editors, but the job descriptions for those titles were intentionally vague. Development as a separate, dedicated step in the process was eliminated shortly after I was hired. The designer wrote the original manuscript; a random assortment of people gave input; then an editor took over and managed everything about the manuscript from that point on (additional development, editing, layout, ordering art and maps, proofreading, and typefitting). It was utterly informal, though; there was tremendous crossover at every stage. Manuscripts got passed back and forth and sideways between editors and designers. Once the original design was done, anyone might be asked to rewrite an encounter, to flesh out a section, to create sample PCs … and anyone might pop by and say, "ooh, let me see that" and then scribble some notes in the margin. That's why the credits for those early products, such as I1, list so many people doing so many jobs. Sometimes the same person shows up in multiple categories. "Special Thanks" were there to cover those people who'd contributed something, even if it was just a suggestion offered up over beer and pizza. The fact that none of the editors had much training in graphic design should be obvious to anyone who looks at

those early adventures. Stephen Sullivan did double duty as both an editor and an illustrator, so he had some artistic sense. I had training in newspaper layout and in measuring and sizing type to fit it into a fixed space. We drove the illustrators crazy with our requests for illos in ridiculous sizes to fill holes. It was a slow process, but eventually we created a system in what had previously been a sort of medieval workshop where each item was individually crafted and completely non-interchangeable with anything else. 5. David Cook credits you with the organization of AD&D Second Edition. What principles did you bring to bear when undertaking the task of making such a complex game easier to understand? Rulebook organization was a regular subject for theological debate among the editors, and I preached the Gospel of Steve to anyone who would listen. Here's the quick version. A set of game rules needs to decide up front whether its job is teaching the material to newcomers or serving as a reference manual for people who already know the fundamentals. I don't believe it can do both. All through the '80s, we'd been producing D&D products aimed at teaching the basics to newcomers. That's not what AD&D was about. We assumed that AD&D players already understood roleplaying and had at least a rudimentary grasp on the rules. They didn't need a training manual; they needed a reference book that made information easy to find during play. Reading the original hardcover books was like having a one-on-one conversation with Gary. They were charming but not much help when a question arose in the middle of a battle. When we got the green light to start working on 2nd Edition, the first thing I did was grab spare copies of the PHB and DMG, slice them into pieces, and start taping them back together the way they belonged. (We were working on word processors by then, of course, but the PHB and DMG didn't exist in electronic form.) It didn't take long to fill a big, fat, 3-ring binder with clippings of rulebooks, all taped together like some insane kidnapper's ransom-note manifesto. Some material from both books was combined into one section, some material that had been joined was split between the books, some sections were torn apart sentence by sentence and reassembled in more logical order. It was terribly tedious work, but it was also something I'd wanted to do for a decade. The point of this exercise wasn't really to reorganize the books; that was done (eventually) with a massive outline that stretched down the wall and across the floor on about a dozen sheets of accordion-fold paper. The giant cut-and-paste was done to demonstrate to those up the chain of authority that the job was too big to be handled by a simple reorganization, which is what some of them were hoping for at the time. Through the whole 2nd Edition development process, the goal was to put everything the players needed into the PHB and everything else into the DMG. Players needed the rules on creating and equipping characters, on magic, and on combat. The DM needed the rules on world building, running adventures, and all the little things that crop up often enough to need rules but not often enough to deserve space in the PHB. Finally, I wanted both books to have comprehensive indexes. They were created the old-fashioned way, by actually reading the final galleys of the books and noting down every instance of a rule or a subject that should be indexed, under every category where someone might search for it. That job took several days, but the resulting indexes were well worth it. 6. You're a fan of Victorian era miniatures. Is this a hobby you've had for a long time or something you've only acquired recently? I've had this particular hobby for close to 30 years, and the yearning for it was percolating in my brain for years before that. One of my earliest memories is my dad reciting a line from a poem: "A soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers; There was lack of woman's nursing, there was dearth of woman's tears." It was a popular schoolyard rhyme when he was a kid. That image of the French Foreign Legionnaire in a far-off corner of the world got jammed in my imagination. It's funny to think that something so small can make such a dent in your psyche. Be careful what you say around your kds!

So I've always been drawn to that sort of exotic, military romance: anything written by Rudyard Kipling or G. A. Henty, and movies like Gunga Din and Beau Geste. I didn't realize there was a whole hobby devoted to miniature colonial wargaming until I encountered a copy of The Sword and the Flame in the Dungeon Hobby Shop in 1981. From the moment that I started flipping through TS&TF, I knew that I was home. Jim Ward and Tom Moldvay turned out to be big fans, too. I recall one summer afternoon when Zeb Cook and I were returning to TSR after lunch. We swung by my place to drop something off, and Zeb flipped on the TV. The movie Zulu was just beginning … so instead of going back to work, we plunked down on the couch, opened a couple of beers, and took the afternoon off. Eventually I had my own armies of Zulus and red-coated British that I hauled to every convention in the area, and I still do. I was born about a century too late. 7. Do you still play RPGs these days and, if so, which ones? Lots! I play D&D 4th Edition with a crew from Wizards of the Coast. If it doesn't make me sound too much like a corporate shill, I'd say that 4E is the best D&D has been since the red-box, 1981 edition of D&D Basic (the one with the cover painting by Erol Otus). That '81 edition is still my favorite, so consider this high praise. I also play an every-other-week game with some fellow codgers. All we play is obsolete RPGs, starting with the original, three little books of D&D. We didn't even allow the Greyhawk or Blackmoor supplements. Those were too progressive. Eventually we moved on to The Fantasy Trip from Metagaming, with an interlude for some classic Traveller. I believe that Metamorphosis Alpha is next on our list, when we wrap up the current TFT campaign. As you might expect, that's a very low-key group. To keep the mood right, we use dice with the corners worn off and lumpy miniatures made of real lead and badly painted with glossy Testor's paints. There's also a Call of Cthulhu group that meets irregularly about once a month. Finally, I play quite a bit of Savage Worlds these days. I run a lunchtime Savage World of Solomon Kane game at the office and joined a homegrown campaign that meets a few times a month. That last group is the only one where none of the other players has any connection to the hobby games industry. It's refreshing to game with people who don't do this for a living. Posted by James Maliszewski at 5:10 PM Labels: 2e, history, interview, tsr, winter 12 comments

SA TURDA Y, JULY 18, 2009

Jack Vance in the New York Times
Thanks to everyone who pointed me toward this article about Jack Vance from the New York Times. The article includes both an assessment of his work by other authors and critics and an interview with Vance himself, all of which is quite fascinating, especially if you're a fan of his work, as I am. Once I finish up my current reading, I think I'll be re-reading all of his tales of The Dying Earth, since it's been a while since I did so. Posted by James Maliszewski at 11:04 AM Labels: interview, other blogs, vance 10 comments

THURSDA Y, JULY 9, 2009

Moorcock Interview

Reader Markus Siebler pointed me toward a new interview with Michael Moorcock that can be found here. As always, there's some very interesting stuff there and well worth the read. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:18 PM Labels: interview, moorcock, other blogs 1 comments

MONDA Y, JULY 6, 2009

Howard Thompson
In the comments to my recent interview with Kevin Hendryx, there was a request for more information about Howard Thompson of Metagaming. Mr Hendryx passed along the following for those interested in such matters: Howard Thompson still lives in the Central Texas area -- I've forgotten exactly where, I want to say Georgetown or another small town within Austin's outer orbit. He went back to state employment after Metagaming and is now retired. He is active in a local atheists group and occasionally pops up in the newspapers in his role as spokesman -- I've seen a photo in the past few years and some letters to the editor from him in the newspaper. He seems to have put Metagaming far behind him -- he's never been in touch with me since 1983 and doesn't seem active in any gaming scene I'm aware of.

Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:26 PM 3 comments Labels: hendryx, history, howard thompson, interview, metagaming

SA TURDA Y, JULY 4, 2009

Interview: David "Zeb" Cook (Part II)
6. Gary Gygax once commented that the AD&D Oriental Adventures book published in 1985 turned out very differently than he'd originally conceived of it. As one of the book's primary authors, can you shed some light on what he might have meant by that? Well I imagine it did. I wasn't just the primary author, I was the author. The project had a bumpy history and I don't really want to go into it a lot, out of respect for others. But it essentially came to a point where the manuscript simply wasn't there. This wasn't Gary but other people that didn't deliver. TSR had major commitments for the book and it needed to be there. I had been advising because I had a passion for oriental history and so was tapped to step in and deliver the book on a very short deadline. Gary knew what I was doing; we met regularly, but what went in was my doing. 7. The second edition of AD&D, of which you were the lead designer, had its twentieth anniversary this year. Looking back on the work that you did, what aspect of the new edition were you most happy with and what aspect were you least happy with? I think what I like most is that I wanted the rules to be guidelines, that you could use what you liked and ignore what you didn't. That and we didn't over-burden the game with rules. I'm a much more fast and loose player when it comes to rules. I think it's important to creating and telling a successful game session. If you're locked in by rules, you can't create the dramatic, exciting, funny event that's just right for the moment. Probably what I was least happy with was that it was still very hard to learn how to play. It was decided the rulebooks needed to work as reference first -- that would make them more useful in the long run, but it was still a hurdle to learn. People complain that we didn't do enough or we did too much, or that we sold out -- I just try to let that all go. There were reasons for many of the things we did that made sense at the time. I think people sometimes get too fixated about what's "official" to see what they could do with the whole.

8. Had your previous experience working on the Expert Rulebook given you any insights into how better to present a complex game like AD&D to a wider audience? That is, were any of the lessons you learned from the Expert Rulebook applicable to your design work on Second Edition? It definitely helped. By far the most important part was thinking about organization, both learning from what worked and mistakes made. Again, the credit for that really belongs to Steve Winter who was the lead editor for Second Edition. It was also a matter of learning how to write rules -- which came from practice doing Expert and some other rules sets. I don't remember any specific things where we said, "That worked in Expert, so we should do it that way." It was more the general immersion into the D&D/AD&D rules mentality and discovering all the ways you could slice and dice things. 9. Your point about fixating on what's official is well taken and one I certainly share. Do you think, in retrospect, that this fixation was fostered, inadvertently or not, by the way TSR marketed the game, its supplements, and in periodicals like Dragon, where columns like "Sage Advice" provided definitive answers to rules questions? I ask this, because, in the early days, Gary Gygax and other designers expressed bafflement at being asked for official rulings, because they felt it would be better if each referee came up with his own answers for his campaign. I think it might be summed up as bafflement with a touch of alarm. The bafflement (incredulity? surprise? bemusement?) came mostly, I think, because we were dedicated gamers of all sorts and were very comfortable with homegrown rules, rules lawyering, and all that fun stuff. So we were a little unprepared for the occasional bursts of literalism from fans, "so it is written, so shall it be." It took us a while to learn that what we wrote as maybe a toss-off idea or suggestion might be read an entirely different way. There was always this underlying belief in part of the community that we had some great unpublished grand plan from which we plucked cherries to publish, when the fact of the matter was that we were pretty much making it up (especially in worlds and settings) almost as fast as we went along. The alarm (and sometimes literally amusement) stemmed from the opposite, when players would badly misunderstand something that seemed obvious. There were some pretty crazy expansions and misinterpretations out there. That may have contributed to the "this is the official way the game is played" sentiment that rose up for a while. I know Gary wrote editorials in Dragon about official D&D, but only Gary knew what his intentions were in those articles. Certainly I know that the Sage Advice column tried to be very conscious of what it said and the effect it had on players out of a genuine concern to help players enjoy the game (and fix some of our internal contradictions). 10. Like many tabletop RPG designers, you made the transition into the world of computer games. Did you find that your experience in the world of pen and paper games had prepared you well for this new industry or are the two very different from one another? It was more challenging than it seemed on the surface. On paper, as a designer you are pretty much in total control. What you design and write is pretty much what gets printed. As a designer for video games, you only control a part of the process. A lot of the player experience depends on the rest of the team of artists and programmers. You can only design so much and you have to learn to rely on and communicate with others. On the other hand, working in paper taught so much about games and the psychology of players. It honed my understanding of what would work, what players might want, and why all of it should go together. In many ways my paper experience has become more useful as games have become more social. There's a lot about MMO's that has more to do with the ways people play traditional RPGs and what they want out of them. Creating environments, developing storylines, incentivizing players -- these are all skills that go way back to traditional games.

12. Do you still play traditional RPGs these days and, if so, which ones? Sigh, very very rarely. It's a combination of a lot of factors we are all familiar with -- lack of time, friends going their different ways, work, and the need to play videogames (if only to see what's being done). Plus, I confess there was a period of burnout for awhile after I left TSR. I just didn't want to see RPGs for a while. Still I have played some things -- Spirit of the Century, most recently, and some homegrown miniature/roleplaying light tabletop battles. Right now I enamored of odd genres like VSF [Victorian Science Fiction -- JDM] and dieselpunk. (Steampunk has been taken over too much by the goth element these days for my taste.) I still like my pulpy fantasy after all. 13. Is there any chance we might see a tabletop RPG or wargames product under your byline in the future? No immediate plans, but who knows what may happen in the future? Posted by James Maliszewski at 7:59 AM 12 comments Labels: 2e, david cook, DnD, history, interview

FRIDA Y, J ULY 3, 2009

How I Interview
Because my interviews with people associated with the early days of the hobby have become one of the most popular features of this blog, I thought I should clarify a few things about how I go about doing them. Once an interviewee agrees to receive my questions, my first batch of them almost always consists of "softball questions," that is, fairly generic ones about how he or she entered the hobby, earliest and/or most famous publications, current activities, and whether he or she still plays RPGs. I never begin by asking anything too "controversial," because I prefer to wait until I receive the responses to my initial questions. Those responses provide me with a good gauge on how much -- or how little -- an interviewee wishes to share with me. In some cases, they provide ample opportunity for me to ask "hard" questions and in others it's clear that they're not interested in airing dirty laundry about the past. In the latter case, it's my practice to respect whatever boundaries they establish, even if that means I don't get to probe deeply. I am not a professional journalist, as several people are quick to point out from time to time. My interviews are conducted to give some of the founders of our collective hobby a chance to say a few things about their own involvement in and contributions to it. I do this both out of simple curiosity and a desire to help establish a few more facts about those bygone days. I do not do it to advance an agenda or to play "gotcha." Consequently, some of my interviews are shorter and less "juicy" than others. That's a function of my innate politeness -- I don't delve into matters that it's clear my interviewees seem to have no interest in discussing, no matter how much I myself might wish to know them. On the other hand, I don't hesitate to pursue matters that my interviewees clearly want to discuss, particularly if it gives me further insight into the history of the hobby. The upshot of all of this is that my interviews are necessarily of uneven length and content, according to my own estimation of each interviewee's level of comfort and openness, as well as my own comfort at asking them lots of tedious questions about events two or more decades in the past. Any perceived inadequacies in the interviews are thus entirely my fault, not my interviewees', who have all been most gracious to take the time to submit to my interrogations. While there are some interviews of which I am more proud than others, I am genuinely pleased with all of them, even those where I felt I could not ask deeply probing questions. I leave that task to others, but experience has taught me that it's often more productive to avoid sensitive topics, even if that yields a less "sensational" interview.

At this stage in my examination of the hobby's history, finding out even the most basic details are of use to me and, I hope, to my readers, many of whom are unaware of them. I consider this a valuable endeavor, even if it'll never win me the Pullitzer Prize. Posted by James Maliszewski at 5:54 PM Labels: interview, musings 15 comments

Interview: David "Zeb" Cook (Part I)
Another of the new designers to join the ranks of TSR in the late 70s and early 80s was David Cook. He would eventually remain at the company for over fifteen years, during which time he would be involved in numerous significant RPG projects, including the Expert Rulebook, Star Frontiers, the licensed Conan RPG, the Planescape campaign setting, and, of course, the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. An avid player of games of all sorts, including the wargames that gave birth to the hobby, Mr Cook has since left the roleplaying field, moving on, like many others, to the computer games industry. He generously agreed to answer my many questions of him. The first part of this interview appears here, with the second part to follow tomorrow. As always, I ask that your comments be pertinent and presented respectfully. 1. Like a lot of people in the early days of the hobby, you discovered roleplaying through wargames. What do you remember about your first encounters with Dungeons & Dragons at the University of Iowa? I had been part a wargames club -- everything from Diplomacy to a massive go at War in Europe. It met at the union on weekends and was a good way to spend an afternoon. I found it as a freshman and it was a kind of vindication of these games that I'd played (mostly by myself). So here I was happily doing the boardgame thing when one of the members (Wolfgang, I think) had this game they were playing in a side room. After a couple of sessions I had a chance to join. It was white box D&D, and I played a dwarf, not really understanding what it was about. It was like a miniatures game but you only had one guy and had to act out what you did. Nobody could explain it well and none of us really knew what we were doing. But after that session I was pretty much hooked. It was this great combination of games and theater (I was a theater minor) that just seemed perfect. Our campaigns were basic, but we had some creative people -- aspiring writers, theater types, pre-law, the whole gamut. The university club was an active group -- they published a fanzine (with some good ideas), created interesting worlds, and had a generally good time. There were a lot of memorable moments -- like the time one of the group created a fighter with 17 strength and 3 dexterity (yay, random rolls!). He wore pop-bottle thick glasses and decided the character had vision as good as he did without the glasses. It made for great role playing and much accidental death. 2. What made you give up your previous career as a high school teacher and try your hand at game design? Did you find the transition between the two careers difficult or did your experience as an educator assist you in your design work? Do you know how much high school teachers got paid in Nebraska at the time? Not much (although I still took a pay cut when I first started at TSR). I like teaching but I don't think I was cut out for it full time -- especially in a town of 300 people. I saw this ad in Dragon magazine that TSR was looking for designers and my wife, bless her, encouraged me to apply. (She's as much a gamer as me.) It was a big leap - we were expecting a child at the time. I knew I could do the job (at least I thought I could) but I was pretty surprised when they hired me.

I think the fact that I loved history and had a strong English background helped. Gary was an old school gamer -miniatures, wargames, the lot -- and the fact that I knew and played a lot of those things myself helped. But ultimately it was the fact that I could write passably (I won't say well, looking back on it) and knew games that made the difference. I'm not sure that being a teacher made me a better designer, but it did help later on at places like conventions where I felt more comfortable in front of crowds. I suppose being a teacher also helped in improvising -- you had to be ready to adapt what you were doing in class if it was bombing. You need a lot of that as a designer. 3. Your name is associated with the second part of the much-beloved 1981 edition of D&D, the Expert Rulebook. What were your goals for this project? That is, what did TSR hope to accomplish with the publication of the Expert Rulebook? Well, the problem up to that point had been that D&D was hard to learn if you didn't have someone to teach you. So several Basic sets came out with that goal. Then we decided we needed try again and grow beyond just the basics. So the red book focused on the basic of dungeons, while the Expert Set was about expanding the player's world to do wilderness adventures. It was a pretty natural progression. Obviously the other goal was to expand the audience so we could sell more product. Originally there was the thought that we could create a set that would transition players from the red and blue box and into AD&D. However, legal issues prevented that, so it became a separate game line. It was still supposed to be easier to learn and use than AD&D more suitable for a younger audience. 4. Do you feel you were successful in making the Expert Rulebook easier to learn and use than AD&D? Were there any particular features of its presentation that you felt made the game more accessible and suitable for a younger audience? Yes, easier to learn than AD&D, though we still couldn't break the mass market barrier. Probably the biggest features that made it easier were the attention paid to organization (by the editor more than me) and the streamlining of things. That meant the Expert set didn't try to cover everything which did mean forgoing some sub-systems that added density to AD&D. 5. While at TSR, you also worked on many classic D&D modules, two of which, The Isle of Dread and Dwellers of the Forbidden City, are among my personal favorites. Both show a clear pulp fantasy influence, the former reminding me of many "lost world" tales and the latter having a vaguely Howardian "Red Nails" vibe. Are you a fan of pulp fantasy and, if so, who are your favorite authors and stories? Well, I'm not surprised by the "Red Nails" reference since that was what I was clearly going for. It's my favorite Conan story and the city was based off of it. It was originally something I did for my own campaign and then used it as my resume when I applied to TSR. I love pulp stories and grew up reading a lot of the classic pulp stuff. As a kid I read Conan, Solomon Kane, most al the Tarzan novels, Doc Savage, the Shadow, Vance, Lovecraft, etc. The Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories by Leiber were among my favorites -- he created this really interesting world and characters that made great stories. Laumer, deCamp, Farmer, Zelazny, Lin Carter, Bloch were a few more. Of course Tolkien, but also a lot of the golden and silver age writers shaped my imagination in junior high and high school. Posted by James Maliszewski at 7:13 AM 17 comments Labels: 2e, david cook, DnD, history, interview

WEDN ESDA Y, J ULY 1, 2009

More Hendryx Information

In the first part of my two-part interview with ex-TSR designer Kevin Hendryx, Allan Grohe asked the question, "Do you touch on the ex-TSR folks' infamous newsletter, by chance? IIRC, Kevin was one of the primary instigators of its creation and distribution!" In answer, I have a reply direct from Kevin Hendryx himself. He says: Lawrence Schick and I began this little private fanzine/newsletter in 1983, while we worked in the same office at Coleco. Just as a lark, and an outlet for our energies and a desire to maintain ties among the ex-TSR crew. I sold my original two sets of this ("The CTHULHU CHRONICLE") in late 2007 to an avid TSR collector. There were 7 issues, if I recall correctly, published irregularly and only circulated among ex-TSR staff. Plenty of gossip and humor (?) and in-jokes, fully illustrated and wacky. We got contributions from other TSR alumni, including a few pages of hilarious sketches and jokes done by Paul Reiche and Erol Otus when they were completely sloshed, but mainly it was created and assembled by Lawrence and myself, photocopied, and sent out. Only a few dozen of each issue were ever "published". Industry news, gossip, deliberate lies, parodies of TSR products and employees, doodles -- it was like a MAD magazine for the in-crowd. When I left Coleco it became too much work for Lawerence on his lonesome so he folded it and started his "The Fort Mudge Moan" private fanzine instead, which ran for another few years but was primarily interested in comic books, not the game biz. And there you have it. Posted by James Maliszewski at 8:10 PM Labels: hendryx, history, interview, tsr 4 comments

TUESDA Y, J UN E 30, 2009

Interview: Skip Williams
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm keenly interested in living connections between the early days of the hobby -- and the fan cultures out of which it grew -- and the present day. Sadly, those connections are becoming fewer and fewer as the years take their toll, which is why it's always a pleasure to speak with someone who was a young person in those days. Skip Williams was still in school when D&D was released in 1974 and thereafter found himself playing in the legendary Greyhawk campaign, the second RPG campaign in history. He subsequently worked at TSR in a variety of capacities before moving on to Wizards of the Coast, where he was involved in the design of the third edition of Dungeons & Dungeons. Together these experiences give him a unique perspective on the history of the hobby and its most famous game. Mr Williams agreed to answer a few questions I put to him and his answers are presented below. I'd like to ask that anyone who comments do so in a respectful fashion, whatever your disagreements might be with the responses here. While I recognize that some of what Mr Williams says might be at odds with the received wisdom of the old school community, that's no excuse for rudeness and I will not hesitate to delete comments that I feel step over the bounds of common courtesy, so please rein in your enthusiasms before I have to do it for you. 1. I usually begin by asking my interviewee how they entered the hobby of roleplaying. In your case, I suspect you became involved in the hobby because you went to school Gary Gygax's son, Ernie. Is that correct? Mostly correct. I've told this story before, so I'll keep it short. I first became aware of gaming one summer when I saw a picture of of some people playing a game with tanks. It turned out it was an article about Gen Con, which was held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, my home town at the

time. I soon discovered that several of my school classmates were playing various wargames (D&D had not been invented yet). When D&D hit the shelves, I was soon involved in a couple of campaigns, and my classmate, Ernie Gygax approached me about getting involved in an even newer game, Warriors of Mars. That, in turn, got me introduced to the Gygax household and to the fledgling TSR. 2. Were you a participant in the original Greyhawk campaign refereed by Gary and Rob Kuntz and, if so, which characters did you play? Ah, you're giving me a chance to split hairs here. Gary ran the very first Greyhawk campaign using the map from the Outdoor Survival game and his notes for the future D&D Game (the very first D&D suggests getting Outdoor Survival and using it for your campaign map). After TSR published D&D, Gary drew a campaign map of his own and that became the Greyhawk setting everyone knows. I was involved in that campaign pretty much from the start, having seen the map laid out on Gary's dining room table. In "New Greyhawk," I had several characters. The most famous of these was Rufus of Hommlet (or Rufus of Skipperton as Gary named him in one of his novels). Rufus explored the Temple of Elemental Evil and eventually became a bigwig in Hommlet. He's mentioned in the modules Gary wrote about the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign. I also had a halfling thief (these days D&D players would call him a rogue) called Phalangas, or "Fingers," who ran around the City of Greyhawk causing as much trouble as he could, and picking pockets on the way. I only ever played Phalangas when Rob Kuntz, Gary's co-DM decided to run a pickup game, so no one has heard of him until now. My longest-running character in the Greyhawk campaign was a human fighter named Boaric. Boaric was no great shakes, but he rubbed elbows with the big boys in the campaign (Tenser, Erac's Cousin, and Robilar to name a few) and was involved on some famous adventures. He was involved in an aborted expedition into the Tomb of Horrors. His biggest accomplishment there was dragging various bits and pieces of his former comrades back out. He also hacked and slashed his way through Against the Giants until coming toe to toe with Snurre Ironbelly. That episode ended badly for all, and it took a wish to get us back on our feet. Boaric also made a few trips to The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, and briefly owned the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd. Boaric was the only character I played under both Greyhawk DMs, Gary and Rob Kuntz. 3. You're thanked by name in both the AD&D Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. Were there any specific contributions you made to the writing or development of either? In the early days of D&D, everybody did things his own way. I was involved in several campaigns in my high school days and I essentially found a different version of the game in each. I used to have talks with Gary about how the game ought to work (often during commercial breaks for televised football games). We talked about everything from how spells are cast and aimed to how much a DM ought to manipulate events in a campaign. It was those talks, I'm sure, that Gary was thinking of when he named me a contributor. 4. One of the many "lost" D&D supplements about which gamers still talk is Shadowland, a product that would have detailed the Plane of Shadow. According to Gary, this was to have been a collaboration between himself and you. Do you remember anything about this project or why it never came to pass? I remember quite a bit abut the project, and I came very close to getting it rolling again a few years ago. It

involved an expedition to the Plane of Shadow where the party would discover, shades, shadow dragons, and several of those enigmatic quasi-deities Gary was always pulling out of his hat. My notes on the plane eventually were co-opted for the Planescape setting. What killed the project, mostly, was lack of time. Gary became interested in getting a D&D Movie off the ground, and I was interested in my college homework and eventually in running the Gen Con Game Fair. Somehow, the two of us never got back together to finish the thing. 5. Of the principal designers of Third Edition, you're the only one who had a direct connection to the earliest days of the hobby. Do you feel your longstanding, personal connection to those days informed your work on 3e and, if so, how? Mostly what I brought to the design effort from those days was a sharp sense of how things can go wrong. Whenever we came to a place in the rules where I knew DMs and players were going to clash, I'd tell a "campaign from hell" story, in which a character (mine or someone else's) was in peril and the DM made the most illogical and completely off the wall ruling you could imagine. I tied to be very careful that all the loose boards in the system were well nailed down. Of course, people still found ways to pry them loose again. 6. For many years, you acted as "the Sage," providing official answers to questions about the rules of D&D in the pages of Dragon, a role you continue to assume for Kobold Quarterly. I remember Gary once complaining that, in the early days, fans of D&D would call him at his home to ask him rules questions and he was baffled as to why anyone needed him to come up with answers, a feeling many early TSR staffers apparently shared. Do you see any contradiction between the desire of many fans for official answers to their questions and the belief of many early designers that players should come up with their own answers? It's a huge contradiction. The early designers were wrong. It comes down to this: If you want to be in control of your character, you have to have some idea how anything you might try is going to come out. and you can't know that unless you have some idea of how the rules are going to handle the situation. If the GM is making capricious decisions about what happens in the game, you're always shooting in the dark and you have no real control over your character at all. Think of how hard it would be to, say, learn to ride a bicycle if the laws of physics were constantly in flux. The game just works better if the DM and players have similar expectations about how the rules handle things. 7. I think most gamers are sympathetic to the concern about capriciousness by the referee, but some would nevertheless argue that having official answers can have the opposite problem of reducing the referee to being a less active participant in the adjudication of the rules than he might have been in the early days of the game. Given that, what do you see is the proper role for the referee as it relates to the adjudication of rules? The referee is there to keep the game moving. As Patton once said, a good answer today is better than a perfect answer next week. A well-written rules set is the best friend a DM can have. It helps manage the player's expectations and gives the DM a leg to stand on when things don't go the players' way. 8. What RPGs do you currently play? D&D 3.5 and 4.0 Big Eyes, Small Mouth High Adventure Role Playing

Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM 49 comments Labels: greyhawk, gygax, interview, williams

SA TURDA Y, JUNE 27, 2009

Interview: Kevin Hendryx (Part II)
4. Do you recall why this reorganization occurred? Was this part of TSR's phenomenal growth in the early 80s or was it the result of other internal pressures within the company? We were not privy to TSR's executive management decisions, except what we were told or what was rumored, so in a way I can't answer this except from my own perspective, and according to what we believed at the time or might have learned later. Tensions and tempers ran hot during that period. Product Development was full of a bunch of mainly younger, intense guys bursting with energy and enthusiasm; above us were more and more non-gamer business and marketing men, who seemed to have the ear of the executives and whose priorities were not our own. The conflict between these attitudes and expectations led to unpleasant situations at TSR beginning in mid-1981 and recurring at regular intervals thereafter, as far as I am aware. The company would periodically swell with new staff, then constrict when times grew lean. People were summarily fired or laid off at the whim of management. The problems in early 1981, however, were not financial, but philosophical. In those days, cronyism was rampant at TSR, at every level -- old friends, in-laws, and whole families dominated entire divisions. Some factions were more powerful or better connected than others. By and large, the creative wing wasn't involved in the ego games and power struggles -- Product Development was physically isolated at that time, in our own building downtown along with the Dungeon Hobby Shop and Dungeon Distributors and the RPGA, and the managers were on the outskirts of town in the new building and warehouse. We didn't marry or get born into our jobs. We had no little hubris about being the "content providers" as it were, while the rest were doing whatever it was they did. We often felt that the Blumes and Gygaxes and their associates, like Will Neibling, were arrogant and greedy, were in over their heads as businessmen, and treated the company and its employees like NPCs in a big game they were playing. Tremendous growth and inflows of cash made it possible to grow both responsibly and irresponsibly. We had a large design and art staff that was the envy of smaller publishers. We weren't dependent on the vagaries of freelance submissions; we could generate quality products completely in-house, but at the same time, we weren't paid particularly well and TSR insisted on owning all rights to everything we produced, as opposed to honoring earlier agreements to pay royalties for in-house productions. This led to many confrontations, as you'd expect, especially when the serfs saw the executives buying big houses and fancy automobiles or other “bling.” The sales and marketing honchos at the company were interested in pursuing licensing agreements and other aspects of mainstream game publishing, like the big boys at Mattel or Parker Brothers or Hasbro might do, which meant branching into children's games à la Fantasy Forest (Candyland with dragons) and movie tie-ins like Escape from New York. Not all the design staff was interested in working on such things; we all preferred to explore original concepts or work within the hobby game arena. Some of the guys were more vocal about their disinclination to toe the company line than others, and ultimately some of the big bosses decided to crack down and force the issue. Maybe they'd been taking management courses and wanted to do things the way other companies did. So we were all obliged to "reapply" for our jobs in a formal sense -- this was April 1981 -- and the people in charge of the process used this as an excuse to abruptly terminate some of the troublemakers for having bad attitudes. This led to some others quitting in protest. And that was the first of the infamous TSR purges. (I recall Jim Roslof returning from a weekend out of town to discover he was alone in the art deptartment, basically.) It put the rest of us on alert as to what we could expect in the future, so those of us

who had been spared but were extremely upset and unhappy at the turn of events began to make plans to leave. By the end of that summer, more of us were gone, including me. TSR continued to make new hires, replaced those who left, and was a very different place by the end of the year. We who were gone referred to ourselves as the "Terminati" and that bygone era as the "Golden Age" in our wishful way. It was a short period of time, but very intense. To this day, I've never had such an engaging job or worked with more creative and inspiring people. Some of the close bonds formed then have continued, and to this day I feel great kinship with all those with whom I worked in Lake Geneva, even our then-antagonists. And requiescant in pace 5. After you left TSR, you went to work for Metagaming as a product development manager. What projects did you oversee during your time there? I had arranged to return to Austin and join Metagaming full-time before I decamped from Lake Geneva. Howard Thompson was pleased to pick me up again after what he felt was TSR's "training" me. Metagaming didn't pay as much, but in those days Austin was a cheaper place to live and it was good to be back in familiar surroundings after the disorientation of small-town Wisconsin and what had become the oppressive, paranoid atmosphere of TSR Hobbies in those days (at least, to us young snot-nosed punks in Product Development). It's difficult to recall precisely what games I worked on while at Metagaming in 1981-82; there are websites that chronicle this stuff better than I remember it now, and I sold off most of my games and documents and memorabilia from this period to collectors. I continued to receive and review outside submissions, coordinate playtesting, copyedited and did layout for a number of games, and proposed original projects that never got off the ground due to Thompson closing down Metagaming's in-house production staff in the spring of 1982. I recall Dragons of Underearth by Keith Gross and supervising some Fantasy Trip modules like Orb Quest and some TFT things licensed to other publishers à la the Judges Guild/TSR arrangement, as well as a few MicroGames like Helltank Destroyer. Thompson was always tinkering on a sci-fi RPG system he felt would be the equivalent of TFT but I don't think he ever got his design finished. It was going to come out in separate volumes, like TFT, beginning with an individual combat system game and then spaceships and then more sort of RPG supplemental material. I think a lot of games in progress were stillborn when Metagaming was deep-sixed. 6. Like a lot of tabletop RPG designers, you eventually entered the computer games industry, working first for Coleco (which seems to have hired a lot of RPG talent). Did you find the transition into video games difficult? Were there many similarities between the two industries or were they completely different? I went to Coleco in spring 1982 and remained there as a game designer in the home video game division until summer 1983. Coleco's revolving door saw a legion of designers from other companies pass through -- Lawrence [Schick -- JDM] once remarked that Coleco had the largest collection of RPG designers not designing RPGs of any game company in the world. Many of them came after my time and our paths did not cross, unfortunately. I enjoyed some aspects of Coleco, but not nearly as much as TSR, and when I left Coleco I left the game business, as it turns out. I've never been able to get back in since, on the occasions when I've tried -- I hoped to work for Origin Systems in the early 1990s, I even made inquiries at TSR again in the mid-1990s, and WOTC/Hasbro and Cranium since then -- but I don't have any background in computer gaming, so I'm hopelessly behind the times anyway. I did find the technical aspects of video gaming during my Coleco stint more difficult to assimilate than conventional games, and computer gaming would probably have been even more so. I'm not much of a technophile, much more a technophobe. I also grew weary of the shoot-em-ups that dominated home video gaming, and I realized long ago that I have no interest in catering to teenage boys' power fantasies anymore, if I ever did. I realize there's more to computer gaming than this, but this is what seems to drive the industry, this pandering to adolescent male wish-fulfillment. I'd rather be involved in something more challenging and grown-up and more, well, whimsical. Or painting miniatures. I'm so old school, I have one room, hard wooden benches, and hickory switches in my brain. 7. Whimsy is something I strongly associate with the early days of roleplaying. Is it a quality

you tried to include in your own game designs over the years? Certainly! Although I've had little opportunity to indulge in this professionally since the 1980s. My game designing since then has remained private, ephemeral, in an almost sand mandala-like way (elaborate miniatures games that can never be repeated; RPG campaigns that have returned to the Immateria from whence they came; many game designs or rules unpublished and unfinished through lack of time). Putting a "Divine Wrath" rule in The Fury of the Norsemen was an early attempt to inject a fantasy element into an historical topic, and one that was not universally appreciated. If I'd stayed at TSR I think I'd have worked on many more oddball games. The first assignment I had there was a rewrite/cleanup of The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. I'm a big fan of Tom Wham's simple but always elegant games like AGTFOS, the original Icebergs, or Gangsters! These are classics in my mind, and I'd like to see some Euro-game publisher snap them up and make refined, jazzed-up editions available to us. Just imagine Green Thing miniatures! Wham was sort of on permanent retainer at TSR as an affiliate game wizard deluxe, not bound to any time clock or protocols. He kept his own schedule and counsel. But he always came out with amazing ideas. I try to incorporate similar concepts in certain boardgames on my "In Process" shelf. Most of what I'm interested in as a designer are still boring ol' miniatures rules and hex wargames and RPGs, but I've also got some simmering concepts for multiplayer boardgames in the newer Euro style, with varied game-play and nice components that allow for a lot of variety and intricate, integral game mechanics. I hate to give away too many ideas, but many of these involve a mix of history and whimsy. Now my challenge is to find time to work on them, since I'm doing so purely on spec or for my own enjoyment, I've not got any publishing deal in the works for anything. Self-publishing via my CafePress shop is always an option for simpler projects like miniatures rules. It makes them available for those who are interested, without convincing a regular publisher to go broke on them. Because there's nothing like self-published game rules on CafePress to get you that villa in Tuscany or that third yacht, you know? 8. Do you still play RPGs today and, if so, which ones? Alas! Playing RPGs with my brother Game Wizards in Lake Geneva, and to a lesser extent in Connecticut (Coleco), surrounded by unparalleled talent and creativity and bonhomie, so completely and hopelessly spoiled me that I've never been able to replicate the enjoyment of the early 1980s with any other groups. I've not been able to hold together a group as a DM in Austin due to job pressures and time constraints and the distractions of adult life, and my efforts to find a simpatico group to just play with has also met with failure. The last time Mary and I tried, back in 2000, the DM flaked out after only a few months and disbanded the campaign, and I've not made the effort again since. But not for lack of interest. Any mature but convivial, collegial, easy-going and non-neurotic gaming groups in Austin who are looking for players, give me a shout! I am active in the Lone Star Historical Miniatures group that meets regularly at the Great Hall Games store in Austin for toy soldier battles (also boardgames), and we play a lot of skirmish-level gaming that has a high element of role-playing involved. And I've been talking to some of the ex-TSR gang about a reunion at GaryCon this coming March, in Lake Geneva, so we'll see what comes of that. Posted by James Maliszewski at 9:29 AM Labels: hendryx, history, interview, tsr 13 comments

FRIDA Y, J UNE 26, 2009

Interview: Kevin Hendryx (Part I)
The late 70s and early 80s were a time of massive growth at TSR, not just in terms of the company's output but also in terms of the staff it needed in order to create all these new products. During that period, TSR hired a number of talented young writers, editors, and designers, many of whom were involved in the production of some

of the most beloved gaming products of the late Golden Age. One such designer was Kevin Hendryx, whose lengthy answers to my questions about his time with TSR proved both interesting and informative. Consequently, I have split up this interview into two parts, with the second part appearing tomorrow. 1. How did you become involved in the hobby of roleplaying? As an outgrowth of my wargaming pursuits (board and historical miniatures). I was an avid player of Risk and other strategy games as a kid and used to create my own pseudo-boardgames (the WWII Eastern Front and the Peloponnesian War come to mind) based on hand-drawn maps divided into squares and unit counters that moved like chess or Stratego pieces. They were very crude and unsophisticated. Then I discovered Avalon Hill's classic wargames in a department store display near the end of 1972, in Cincinnati, and my world was blown away. My middle school cronies and I fell head over heels in love with this new hobby; Strategy & Tactics magazine and SPI games soon followed. One of my original gaming buddies was John Winkler, who later was a key figure at Ral Partha (his high school D&D wizard became the company namesake). Then my vagabond family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1973 and I was cut off from the gaming mainstream for a long time. I had a handful of boardgaming pals, and discovered military miniatures during this time via H.G. Wells's Little Wars book and the old Wargamer's Digest magazine (which published my first professional writings), but there was no organized group I was aware of and I felt very isolated. When I went to college (UT-Austin) in 1976 I finally encountered active gaming groups, played a lot of boardgames in particular, and was introduced to the original white box Dungeons & Dragons through my roommate Edward Sollers (later to also work for TSR Hobbies) and mutual friends. RPGs were still primarily an avocation of university nerds at that time. I found the entire concept breathtaking in its potential, even though we rarely created or played in anything more than a hack 'n' slash, Monty Haul sort of milieu. Despite having the Temple of the Frog at our fingertips. 2. How did you come to be hired by TSR? In early 1979 I answered an ad in the college newspaper from someone who turned out to be Howard Thompson, president of Metagaming Concepts, an Austin-based wargame publisher, who was looking for experienced gamers to playtest and evaluate game designs being submitted to his company for publication as MicroGames. He took me on as a freelancer; I would pick up a couple of game prototypes every few months, read the rules and try to play them (some were so raw this was difficult), and submit a report detailing the good and bad points along with recommendations for improvement. I don't remember any of the designs I evaluated ever being bought. Then as now, 90% of what was received unsolicited was not publishable. Occasionally I would be given a more polished design, something already accepted for publication and only requiring development and rules tweaking, like Ram Speed. In late 1979/early 1980, at Thompson's suggestion, I designed an original historical MicroGame called The Fury of the Norsemen that Metagaming purchased. During this period, D&D and its AD&D offspring were growing ever more popular. I continued to play the game and collect the new books and I began to write some short articles for Dragon magazine. In early 1980, I desperately needed a real job and began to consider the prospects of working full-time in the game industry; TSR and SPI were actively looking for designers and I applied at each. I never heard back from SPI after my initial inquiries and application (which included revising/rewriting the rules of an Avalon Hill classic in SPI format; SPI were undergoing a lot of business problems then anyway, I later learned) but I received encouraging notes from Gary Gygax and Kim Mohan from TSR and then a telephone conference call/interview from Lake Geneva with Lawrence Schick, Mike Carr, and Al Hammack, if memory serves. They liked that I had experience with boardgames/wargames, since TSR was interested in getting more involved in these fields, and that I was already evaluating outside submissions and working with unpolished designs, since they were planning to establish a

Development Section within their Product Development division to fulfill these functions. So I was in. I took the $500 Thompson paid me for Fury of the Norsemen -- I dunned him for it on acceptance rather than on publication -- hired a U-Haul trailer, and in April 1980 my wife, Mary, and I ponderously hit the trail to southern Wisconsin (where coincidentally I had lived before, in Waukesha from 1970-71). 3. The majority of your credits while working for TSR are for editing and development. What were your specific responsibilities at the company? Lawrence Schick can probably correct any faulty memories or timelines, but as I remember, the Development Section was formed in early 1980, originally led by Al Hammack and then by Brian Pitzer, to serve as a waystation between the Design and Production sections. For in-house projects, the idea was to have an assembly line approach to game products: the designers would craft the initial prototype or manuscript and minimally playtest it to some degree. When the rough design was satisfactory, it went to Development for intensive playtesting and troubleshooting, revision or augmentation where necessary, and final draft of the game rules or manuscript text. Then the final components went to Production, for oversight of typesetting, layout, copyediting, proofreading and blueline corrections, and supervision of the actual printing stage of publication. A lot of contributions were made at each stage and there was not always a clear division of labor. The amount of work required might vary depending on the nature of the project, the completeness (or lack thereof) of the original design, and format requirements or other marketing aspects. Development also helped to proofread bluelines when Production was swamped; and Design or Production would help Development playtest when required. Everybody pitched in with less formal playtest sessions in the off-hours. Sometimes Development would have to create extra material to flesh out an incomplete design; I remember Evan Robinson and I compiling the clerical reference charts at the back of Deities & Demigods one Saturday afternoon. I designed the town sections of AD&D module A3 for commercial release and Paul Reiche largely rewrote the Gamma World: Legion of Gold module from a Gygax early draft, including designing from scratch all the three mini-adventures; I then extensively edited the whole from the separate raw drafts. (My original edited ms. was sold to a collector on the West Coast in 1998.) Most projects involved a lot of collaboration, which I very much enjoyed. Some designers turned over better prepared manuscripts than others -- Lawrence Schick and Dave Cook, for example, were (and still are) very thorough and precise; their work required little editing or "repairing." Other contributors were less careful or accomplished. Our section also received, catalogued, and reviewed all the outside game submissions that were sent to TSR by hopeful game designers. This work had a lower priority than work on in-house projects but we did have to keep up with it. We got all sorts of rubbish (hundreds of chess or checkers variants, for example), lots of things in violation of copyright (e.g., games using Tarzan, for which we held no license, or Monopoly spinoffs) and just lots of poorly conceived or badly written RPG modules. But you never knew when you might strike a vein of gold, so we made the attempt to sift through everything that seemed to offer possibilities. We actually played a few very intriguing games -- a very nice abstract strategy boardgame named Epaminondas comes to mind, it had been self-published by the designer and looked very professional already, not like the usual typescripts and cardstock boards -- and were able to offer encouragement to a number of young designers, some of whom I believe went on to work in the business. There are probably modules published after my time that had their genesis in that office. (Not to mention the concepts or outlines that I submitted as designer that were retained by TSR after I left and reworked by other people.) Following the reorganization and staff "purges" of April 1981, the Development section was abolished and its responsibilities folded into Design or Production. I moved into the Design section, where I remained until I left the company in September 1981. My general duties didn't change very much in this time; I continued to do a mix of editing/development and original design, such as the Remember the Alamo! minigame (a dreadful game constricted by format limitations; I'm sorry about this!) Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: hendryx, history, interview, tsr 4 comments

MONDA Y, JUNE 22, 2009

Interview: Dennis Sustare
In examining the early history of the hobby, it's often easy to forget the diversity of individuals and ideas that were extant at that time. Because both fanzines and conventions were thriving and because there was an openness to new approaches, it was quite possible for such individuals to disseminate their ideas widely, often attracting the attention of the companies publishing RPGs. One such individual was Dennis Sustare, among whose many contributions to the hobby were the creation of D&D's druid class and the first RPG in which the players portray animals, Bunnies & Burrows. Mr Sustare kindly agreed to answer some questions I put to him about these and other related matters. 1. How did you become involved in the role-playing hobby? Previously I played chess, go, and board wargames (such as the Avalon Hill games). In grad school at Wisconsin, in a small on-campus wargame convention, there were a few people playing early versions of D&D with Chainmail combat rules. I was intrigued, and got into a local gaming group of other grad students (astronomy, biochem, chemistry, law, and myself in zoology). This was back with the original three D&D booklets, in the woodgrain box (plus the Chainmail rules). 2. You're specifically thanked in the credits of Supplement III to OD&D, where you're called "the Great Druid." There's also a druid spell in AD&D called "Chariot of Sustarre," which was named in your honor. What role, if any, did you have in the creation and/or development of the druid class? When the thief class was released in the Greyhawk supplement, as an addition to the original fighter, cleric and magic-user, we became interested in other possible classes beyond these four. I wrote up and mimeographed a set of rules for a new druid class, for our internal play. After some playtesting in our game, I revised it with a new mimeograph rule set, still just for our own use. But when we went to early GenCons, a copy got into Gary's hands, and thanks to some advocacy by Tim Kask, they revised the rules once more and published them in the Eldritch Wizardry supplement. Tim added the Chariot spell at the time (it was not one of my original spells, and the misspelling of my name was deliberate). I consider this my first published game design, although Bunnies & Burrows was released the same year (1976). 3. What were your inspirations in creating the druid class? I once surmised that the class had been based on the character of Dalan from Henry Kuttner's "Elak of Atlantis" tales, while Erik Mona of Paizo mentioned Talbot Mundy's Tros of Samothrace as a likelier possibility. Were either of us close to the mark or was there a different inspiration for the class? Nope, sorry. I never read the Talbot Mundy stories, though on looking them up now, they sound interesting. I read lots of Kuttner and Moore, but don't recall ever reading the Elak stories. Instead, I was familiar with druids from literature about early England, especially during Roman times. The most immediate inspiration, of course, was their mention as a monster in Greyhawk (but not as a character class). Initially, I was trying to make them related totally to plants and animals, but felt they needed a little more firepower (literally). 4. One of your most famous creations was the game Bunnies & Burrows, which you wrote with Scott Robinson and which was first published in 1976. Besides Richard Adams's novel Watership Down, what inspired you to undertake this project, since it was quite a departure from other games that were published at the time? Scott and I were both zoology grad students at Wisconsin. Once we got interested in roleplay, we thought it would be fun to try to design an animal-based fantasy roleplay game. In our early development of the game, Scott usually ran scenarios and I was the sole player many times. Since Scott Bizar, at Fantasy Games Unlimited,

was enthusiastic about publishing many different roleplay variants, I submitted the polished rules to him, and he happily accepted them for publication. Charlie Loving did the 1st edition illustrations, after playing in some early games during development. When it was revised for second edition, Jeff Dee added illustrations, including a new cover. 5. How was B&B received in the gaming community when it was released? I think as just one more of a multitude of roleplay variants that began to flood the market. including those with various genres of science fiction, pirates, pre-revolutionary France, gangsters, superheroes, samurai, and many more. Those few who actually gave it a fair try usually wound up enjoying it, though. 6. You also wrote Swordbearer, a fantasy RPG that included numerous innovations, such as an abstract wealth system and a magic system based on the of Asian philosophy. Did Swordbearer arise out of a dissatisfaction with our existing fantasy RPGs or did the game have a different origin? Once B&B came out, several other publishers were interested in my doing some designs for them. Arnold Hendrick approached me from Heritage to develop an FRP competitor for D&D. My original design for Swordbearer (which went through several title changes... I requested Avatar as my first title, but Heritage did not think anyone would know what that was) had much more original design than the final form. For example, I had created all new non-Tolkien races, but Heritage nixed most of them, since they wanted the game to utilize the races represented in their existing miniature lines. I was not dissatisfied with existing fantasy RPGs as such, but was trying to create a system that would not lead to such "Monty Haul" campaigns. This was what led to the abstract wealth system, based on social class rather than mere accumulation of unending piles of gold coins. Once Swordbearer was released, unfortunately, Heritage was already on its way to its demise as a game company. I also produced Heroes of Olympus (based on Greek myth) for Task Force, and scenarios and other small games for Heritage, Steve Jackson, Paranoia, Citybook, etc. 7. B&B placed an emphasis on problem solving and overcoming obstacles through wits and Swordbearer was, as you say, an attempt to avoid the Monty Haul syndrome to which many RPGs fell prey. Would you say that this is a reflection of your preferred gaming style? Absolutely. This is the main reason I always preferred mature GMs who created a rich, complex and challenging background, rather than just drawing another 1000-room dungeon with a random monster and treasure in each room. Some of our most entertaining adventures involved extended attempts to defeat a single, diabolically clever trap, or to fulfill a particularly demanding quest. It is also why I tended to enjoy low-level adventures much more than high-level ones. Low level characters cannot just set off tactical nukes every time they encounter a new group of monsters. 8. Like a number of tabletop RPG designers, you eventually made the transition to the video games industry. Did you find the transition difficult and what, if any, differences did you see between the two industries? Actually, my transition was from Assistant Professor at Clarkson College to the video games industry. I never made a living from tabletop RPG, and did those designs mostly for fun. But I knew people in the industry, and when Paul Jaquays offered me a job at Coleco, I snapped it up. The transition from college teaching was not so tough, since I was treated as more of a professional at Coleco than I had been as a professor. The main challenge was constraining the video game designs to the idiosyncrasies of specific platforms, since the demands of systems such as Atari 2600 were so different from ColecoVision or IntelliVision. Also, Coleco was one of the first companies to divide up tasks among specialties, rather than requiring designers to have all abilities at once. So we had graphic designers, programmers, writers, and musicians, with the game designers more like what game producers do today. Many of the Coleco products were based on licensed arcade properties, so we would exhaustively play and analyze an arcade game, then try to design a game that would capture the feel of the arcade on the video game platform. My scientific background of investigation really helped me, especially

combined with my RPG design background. 9. Do you still play tabletop RPGs and, if so, which ones? Not really. When I attended the inaugural meeting of the North Texas RPG Convention (just held in the Dallas/Ft Worth area), I did play in a couple of games, such as one using Matt Finch's Swords & Wizardry rules, which are similar to the earliest D&D rules. But that was the first time I had played F2F RP for many years. I have a character in Adventure Quest Worlds, but that is the only online multiplayer game I am in right now. And I no longer design for MUDs or MUSHs. It's tempting to design a scenario for Matt's S&W system, but I am going to resist that temptation. Posted by James Maliszewski at 9:00 AM 15 comments Labels: druid, history, interview, other games, sustare

SA TURDA Y, JUNE 20, 2009

Interview: Darlene
Anyone whose entry into the roleplaying hobby coincided with the Golden Age of D&D will know the name Darlene and immediately associate it with some of the most beautiful images ever to created for the game, chief among them the glorious World of Greyhawk maps that first appeared in 1980. Three decades later, Darlene's work stands out as noteworthy not just for its attractiveness but also for its having given many early D&D products an air at once fantastical and rooted in medieval history -- a heady combination I don't think any artist since has recreated. I had the opportunity to ask Darlene some questions about her involvement in the RPG industry, her artistic influences, and the unusual process by which she creates her art and she kindly answered them all at great length. I urge everyone who posts comments to be courteous and respectful. --Thank you kindly for granting me this opportunity to reminisce with you. I hope I will give your readers some interesting things to think about. I send Big Bountiful Blessings to all. 1. How did you become involved in illustrating for role playing games? I came in through the back door. At the beginning of my association with TSR Hobbies, I worked behindthe-scenes. One of my first jobs for them was to create a large two-sided sign in the shape of a shield with a dragon on it. For several years, this sign hung in front of TSR’s Williams Street building in Lake Geneva. This was around 1977 when TSR Hobbies had just the one building and employed only a handful of people. The first TSR person I met was Mike Carr, creator of the Fight in the Skies WWI aviation game. I was a local artist working for a graphics firm in Lake Geneva when Mike came in to update TSR’s next Gen Con flier. By the end of the project, we were dating. When Mike took me to visit his place of employment, the first people I met were Tim Kask, Joe Orlowski,

and Dave Sutherland. Working as I did for Graphics Printing, when it came to freelancing, I was naturally associated with design, graphics and lettering. Sometimes, I wonder about the happenstance of my living in Lake Geneva at that particular moment in time. If anyone was tailor-made for graphically shaping the look, identity and public face of TSR, it would be me. With a background in medieval-studies, a familiarity with strange mythological beasts, a calligrapher’s knowledge of manuscripts, and a deep appreciation for fantasy and surrealism, no one could be more uniquely qualified. I could do anything TSR called upon me to do. Before I entered the scene, TSR Hobbies’ published materials looked noticeably different. Beginning with the tenth issue of The Dragon, I generated many headings for the magazine’s columns and articles. Few people realize I designed TSR’s “wizard face” logo (in October, 1980). I’m also responsible for the logo, letterhead, business cards and advertising materials for TSR Periodicals and Dragon Publishing. While the other artists concentrated solely on illustration, it was I who imparted the visual backdrop for the RPG genre itself, the stage upon which RPG could be appreciated. Thus, the context for early RPGs came through my filter, making my work directly responsible for imparting a mood–an authentic gothic sensibility–to early RPG. A fan, described it to me in these terms: “I loved that almost underground look and feel to the games and the magazines. An almost Dark feel that matches the Medieval era...” During those early years, my published work, if not my name, was seen quite a bit. The first module coming with the basic D&D set was In Search of the Unknown (B1). Every person introduced to the genre saw my art on the front and back covers of the module. I also contributed regularly to The Dragon magazine and did the graphic illustrations for the 1980 and 1981 The Days of the Dragon calendars and the lettering for the Realms of Wonder and Dragonlance calendars. In 1983, I designed The Guide to the World of Greyhawk book to appear like an illuminated manuscript, accompanied, of course, by the WOG maps. Highlights of my Fantasy art (sans lettering) include: the above-mentioned B1 cover and back-cover, the cover for The Dragon magazine #37, The Ice Barbarian in the 1981 Days of the Dragon Calendar and The Green Dragon in the 1982 Days of the Dragon Calendar, Monster Card art, The Dragontales Anthology, all interior art for first RPGA Rahasia (R2) module, all interior art for One-On-One game The Amber Sword of World’s End. My art also appeared on the title page of the Dungeon Masters Guide as well as The Rogues Gallery. Incidentally, many people consider the DMG title page art—a depiction of a fat unicorn—to be iconic, a wistful symbol of a time gone by, a longing for past pleasures fondly remembered. Having studied symbols and icons, I tend to agree with this opinion. 2. Artistically, who are and were your biggest inspirations? Generations who’ve grown up with RPG materials readily available probably don’t realize just how scarce pictorial representations of monsters were in the pre-internet decade of the late 1970s. Usually, the only image sources of mythical beasts that an artist could find were in resource books within a library’s reference section—in different encyclopedia sets, various dictionaries, and Bestiaries. Lucky visits to out-of-town libraries might net different source imagery. Since reference books could not be checked out, I always had to be sure to carry enough change with me for photocopying, just in case. When it came to locating depictions of unusual creatures, how many times

did the Lake Geneva Public Library staff point me to their large collection of children’s books? When it came to fairy tale and children’s book illustrators, I always preferred the work of those living earlier in the century—Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Aubrey Beardsley, and Kay Neilsen. RPG fantasy illustrators during this period spent most of their income developing their own resource libraries. Dover Publication reprints made life easier for many of us. Fortunately, I was interested in mythical creatures long before I moved to Lake Geneva. Much of my resource library began with postcards and books purchased at London museums. In 1974, I spent the fall in London as a participant in Beloit College’s Studies Abroad Program. Both the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery were only a short walk from where we stayed. I enjoyed the gallery of Turner’s canvases and admired his ability to immerse me into his passionate experience of the sea. I marveled at the paintings of John Constable and studied the works of the Pre-Raphaelites. I also responded to the work of Heinrich Kley, Gustav Doré, Virgil Finlay, Frank Frazetta, Gustav Klimt and MC Escher. Of the many exquisite collections within the British Museum, I found myself most often visiting the manuscripts they had on display. From the very beginning, my passion for letters developed concurrently with my passion for art. In London, during the entire fall of 1974, I took classes in the art of calligraphy from an advanced Craft Member of the prestigious Society of Scribes and Illuminators. There is something about combining illustrations with text that is very satisfying for me. Art Nouveau artists had different ways of juxtaposing words with imagery. I loved it all. By December, I’d created a medieval-styled book in which I wrote out the text in calligraphy, illuminated the pages and created the illustrations. I am a big admirer of William Morris (of the Arts and Crafts movement) and William Blake, both of whom advocated the thoughtful integration of imagery with the written word. 3. Nearly 30 years after they were first published, the maps you created for the World of Greyhawk fantasy setting have no equals in my opinion. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating them? Thank you kindly. Yes, of all the myriad things I did during the few years I freelanced for TSR, I seem to be most renowned for creating two large color maps for The World of Greyhawk. Gary Gygax (the father of RPG) has openly touted my WOG map set as being the “best gaming maps ever created for this genre,” so you are not alone in your opinion. Gary wrote to me that he considered my WOG map renditions to be “an unrivaled classic which set the standard for future RPG Fantasy Game maps.” Each 22″ x 35″ map was created “to size” and almost too unwieldy to fit on the surface of my drawing table. The artwork I prepared in layers, with the black layer—the hex layer—on the bottom. Using black ink, I worked directly on the surface of the foundation hex layer. I inked in pictorial representations of individual mountains, trees and other geographical features and organically integrated them with different styles of lettering. Transparent acetate was placed atop and I applied color to the map through the use of large adhesive pantone color sheets. I approached the WOG maps as if they were large illustrations. For me, the art of creating letters is another specific way of drawing (I also design of type fonts) so I don’t consider words as separate from illustration. As a lover of letters, I have developed an advanced sensibility for balancing and juxtaposing positive and negative shapes. That’s how I achieved a certain pleasing integration of image with text that translates as satisfying. Anyone unfamiliar with the subtle nuisances of letterform design will be unable to replicate the overall aesthetic effect my gaming maps possess. Up to now, I’ve spoken little about my advanced intuitive abilities. Being able to access and enter subtle energy states (without the use of drugs) is just a part of who I am. Because people

have a tendency to be dismissive about the subject, I don’t often share much about my regular excursions into the supernatural. I don’t believe it’s all that unusual: the ability to enter subtle realms is a normal part of the human experience. We close it off because we’ve been taught to do so. However, I chose to bring it up because it’s another hidden component of the WOG maps that’s pertinent to the discussion. While working on the maps, I reached my mind across space/time and tapped into the knowledge of a medieval artisan versed in the craft of map-making. From my point of view, the wrinkled hands of a knowledgeable old cartographer became superimposed on my own and “we” worked on the map together. I don’t mean to infer my WOG maps were channeled. My mind was definitely clear and present during the entire creative process. My hands simply “knew” what to do. The resulting map art became more informed by my ability to draw upon this deep internal resource. I think gamers may be responding to an energetic residue that the map still retains from these sessions. That’s another reason the maps are so impossible to duplicate, and probably represents the best explanation of why those WOG maps possess such an air of authenticity. 4. I recall that you not only illustrated but also designed a fantasy card game called Jasmine: The Battle for the Mid-Realm. Can you tell us a little about how it came about and if you ever intend to return to it? Thanks for asking. My card game sprang directly from the interactions of the characters from my The Story of Jasmine™ fantasy-adventure saga that ran in The Dragon Magazine from May 1980 to April 1981. I sorted my story characters into four factions, each possessing different and unique strengths and attributes. Since the card game is character-driven, it’s only natural for players to ad lib assuming the personae and traits of their particular faction during game play. Just in time for Gen Con XV, I created the first role-playing card game. The publication of Jasmine: The Battle for The Mid-Realm™ collector card game in August of 1982 officially marks the first appearance of 1) a role-playing game using playing cards and 2) game-related cards being heavily illustrated. I was honored at Gen Con’s Ninth Annual Strategist’s Club Awards for creating the “Most Outstanding New Game in an Open Category” and still have the plaque. My card game system defines three types of playing cards–faction cards, event cards, and special cards–each with unique actions which can change depending upon what other cards are in play or which factions are holding them. This is unique, both then and now. In his TD review of my game in August 1983, Merle Rasmussen wrote: “JASMINE incorporates a few old ideas with many new ones to create a fresh approach in card-gaming.” Another positive review of my game appeared in Avalon Hill’s Gameplay Magazine. Despite the assertion on Wikipedia to the contrary, I did have plans to publish expansion decks with the intent of introducing the other characters within my Story of Jasmine fantasy. The game play of the green faction cards (defining the ways the King of UR and his Army cards can be used by any player) is proof I originated this seed idea. This was ten years before WOTC falsely claimed the patents, alleging that the idea of a role-playing card game belonged solely to them. They employed too many former TSR people who had copies of my game to not to know that I was the first to come up with the concept. They also violated my copyrights by republishing The Story of Jasmine™ fantasy-adventure saga without my permission. Jasmine: The Battle for The Mid-Realm™ collector card game is also the first game to combine card actions with full color paintings in the context of playing cards. I lavished much attention on the details of the fantasy artwork. Unlike most card decks in use at the time, I illustrated all 112 playing cards. For the forty Faction

cards, I created full color miniature paintings and assumed the expense of four-color printing. Additionally, I illustrated the Event and Special Cards, printing them in two colors. Some years back, the legal department at Disney contacted me. They informed me that if I didn’t fight it, that they were going to use the name Jasmine. At the time, I didn’t have the means to defend my trademark and so was forced to relinquish it. For those interested in owning a piece of history, Jasmine: The Battle for The Mid-Realm™ collector card —all numbered and signed from the original stock, is still available. 5. You had the chance to work with Gary Gygax again on a couple of his Castles & Crusades products for Troll Lord Games. Did it feel like a "homecoming" for you, artistically? Sometime in 2003, Gary Gygax initiated contact with me. As our resulting correspondence blossomed into a new friendship, I very much enjoyed getting to know Gary and his wife, Gail better. My husband and I enjoyed some excellent visits with them in Lake Geneva, musing and reminiscing on their wrap-around porch. During our e-mail discourse, from time to time, Gary would broadly mention his desire for another good fantasy map, writing things like, “Everyone thinks your The World of Greyhawk maps are amongst the best ever done…” But I refused to take the bait. Professionally, for over two decades, I’d been squarely within the bounds of “the real world.” In light-hearted ways, I evaded Gary’s attempts to interest me in doing another set of maps for him. But he had an ally in my husband, also an avid gamer. Within six months, I stepped back into the RPG world. Yes, artistically it was a great home-coming. During 2004/05, I created a new two-map gaming set for Gary’s Castle Zygag. Also for Troll Lord Games (TLG), I poured my creative juices into the first four issues of their The Crusader Journal, and also wrote some insightful articles. I also created some character sheets, and did other miscellaneous module and book design for them. I enjoyed the work itself, the sense of camaraderie, and close creative association with Gary. My return to RPG ended up being brief. In an industry run by hobbyists, I found nothing has essentially changed in terms of aesthetics. People who possess an educated eye for balance, proportion, and beauty will be stymied by people who are not sensitive to such things. RPG Hobbyists have different expectations, priorities and ideas about what is important to a project. Been there, done that! Any art professional who is established outside of RPG will find it difficult to cope with the assumptions of people unacquainted with the ethical standards of the graphics industry. Besides, having worked for design agencies where the price for a single logo starts at $1500 and it costs $150 per page for design, it was too tough for me to continue walking backwards. 6. What have you been up to lately? Is there any chance you might again work on some RPG projects? My life-long search for deeper meaning has brought me full-circle—back to my beginnings. I used my thirty years away from RPG to explore all aspects of the deeply profound relationship between art and spirituality. Somewhere along the way, I became a Sacred Artist. I’m defining Sacred Art as art created through a spiritual connection to one's soul/essence and to the Divine. Right now, I am choosing to embody the archetype of the Muse—one who inspires creativity, vision, imagination and expansive thought processes. On a transpersonal level, the Muse helps people to birth and recreate their own reality so that life becomes an art form. In fact, “Art is Life, Life is Art” is my motto. To recap, I believe synchronicity brought me back to RPG. I needed to return to this part of my past to recognize, value, and reclaim the fullness of my power. What I thought had been missing from my life turned out not to be missing at all. I needed to understand that I’ve always been a natural spiritual conduit and have been practicing Sacred Art all along. Some of my RPG fans have reported extra-ordinary experiences with regards to some of my

old DMG art. If not for their accounts, I would not have gained an appreciation for my art’s great energetic potential. The mechanism of energy transference into art is simple to understand. One way it can be accomplished is through “focused intent.” The process of fixedly concentrating upon a certain thought while engaged within a creative artistic activity can leave a sympathetic psychic frequency capable of objectively being felt and accessed. That’s my most hidden, but also my most powerful contribution to RPG. Think about the creative dynamic, of how adding an energetic feminine counterpoint would tend to have a catalyzing effect upon a male-dominated industry. My gender role within RPG concerns the science of how complementary flows of energy impart spin. Though never consciously intended, I intuitively functioned as Shakti to TSR’s Shiva. My role as the feminine presence within D&D has always existed, but just below the surface. Instinctively, someone within TLG grasped the concept in 2006 at their Lake Geneva Gaming Convention, and gave me the title, “Our Lady of Gaming.” That designation crystallized things for me. Why not? I seldom participated in game-play as a competitor. Thus, I wasn’t “in” the game as much as “of” the game. Nevertheless, whenever I entered a game room to observe, my presence was always felt. Long before I realized it, I served as a type of inspirational Muse for RPG. In the chivalric sense, I AM “The Lady,” who makes one’s adventuring worthwhile. One good way to explain how my art (and I) have functioned on a trans-personal level would be in Jungian terms. Through projection, I have represented (often inadvertently) the feminine component within the male psyche. From the very beginning of RPG, I’ve served as an anima projection for the gamer, a mirror. Since I reflect a man’s relationship to the feminine aspects within himself, men’s reactions towards me are as varied as their internal relationship to their animas. Now at last, I honor my ability to embody “The Feminine” and choose to embrace it as a part of my skill set. I must be very careful about what I choose to birth into existence. It’s highly unlikely I’ll be doing much of anything more for RPG as a group. Besides, my passionate interest in spiritual art seems to clash with the comfort level of most gamers. But I won’t close any doors. I reserve the right to stir my creative juices by working on an individual basis with people who appreciate the depth of what I have to offer. Since the beginning of 2009, I’ve been experimenting with creating digital paintings. I recently created a new, digital re-interpretation of my only published Dragon magazine cover (TD#37). Painting with light and vibrant color feels very freeing and fun. It’s like and yet, unlike traditional media. Within every pixel of “Maiden and Unicorne” I consciously placed exuberance and joy. Then something unexpected happened. The moment I achieved the “right” energetic for the image of the Virgin, the healing potential of the unicorne descended into the art! So this is my parting gift! I offer the actual healing power of the unicorn to anyone open to the possibility. But don’t take my word for it. I invite your readers to check it out for themselves. BTW--the auction of my RPG art has yet to happen. It’s still possible to own a chunk of the past from the woman who once stood at the center of RPG.

I prefer to live in a reality where magic is not only possible but flourishes! I invite fans interested in the next phase of my continuing creative adventures to write me at: ourladyofgaming@gmail.com Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: art, darlene, greyhawk, interview 20 comments

THURSDA Y, JUNE 18, 2009

Michael Moorcock on D&D (and More)
How did Michael feel about the heavy borrowing from the Elric saga to create the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world? Ambiguously? When I told the original D&D guys they could use Elric it was in the spirit of the 60s/70s when it seemed to many of us that we were sharing in a common culture and the products of that culture. Of course, I hadn't anticipated that some people would start turning all this stuff into commercial businesses and so it was a bit of a surprise when D&D and Chaosium, for instance, started fighting over who 'owned' the rights to the Elric 'cosmology'. Then, as time went on, I was even more surprised to see it all developing into pretty soulless marketing methods where companies like Warcraft and others began to rip off me and Tolkien in particular. Call me naive, but I was used to a more ethical age, if you like, where people tended to ask other people what they thought about 'borrowing' their ideas. I suppose I should have trademarked and copyrighted all this stuff sooner, but I'm still unhappy about that sort of thing, which goes against all my ethical notions. I tend to be a bit contemptuous of people incapable of coming up with their own ideas. The irony is, of course, is that my ideas have got into the general cultural bloodstream and I suppose I should be flattered by that. I'm not the first person, of course, to see that happen. Kipling, Conan Doyle or H.G.Wells must have felt a lot more stunned than I was to see the world of the early 20th century packed with jungle boys, consulting detectives and time/space machines. The only problem I have, I suppose, is when I'm either accused of imitating someone who is hardly aware that their idea came from or when some obvious copy of my stuff makes a fortune. I also get irritated by publishers like Orion who manipulate my books to keep them out of print (in order to keep from paying royalties on a cross-accounted contract) and promote books which are pretty obviously influenced by mine. That simply seems unjust! This and a whole lot more if you follow the link. Posted by James Maliszewski at 6:52 PM Labels: interview, moorcock, other blogs 10 comments

MONDA Y, JUNE 15, 2009

Interview: Paul Reiche III
In the late 70s and early 80s, the success of D&D enabled TSR to expand rapidly, in the process acquiring a large number of new employees, many of whom left their marks on the company. One such person was Paul Reiche III, who worked as a developer, designer, and editor at the company on several products published in 1980 and 1981. He left TSR for a successful career in the then-new computer games industry, eventually founding his own company, Toys for Bob, in 1989, where he works with his highschool classmate Erol Otus. Mr Reiche was kind enough to answer several questions I put to him, promising that "less than half of them are pure lies."

1. How did you become involved the roleplaying games hobby? In 1976 I was in the 10th grade at Berkeley High School. During the first couple of weeks of school in AP Chemistry, I noticed this tall skinny dude who studied these strange pamphlets every day before class. Looking at the crudely illustrated covers, I though he was either a Hare Krishna (it was Berkeley, after all) or was up to some form of "no good," which has always had a great appeal for me. When I asked him, "What are those?" he invited me over to his place to play "in his dungeon" and it was there I met Erol Otus, famed D&D artist (he was great, even at 16) and Mat Genser. That game was very ruthless and Erol proceeded to kill all my characters, once with some kind of skeleton pistol that shot phalanges bones. Of course, I was hooked and we played almost every day until graduation. 2. One of the earliest RPG products to which I recall seeing your name attached was Booty and the Beasts, to which Erol Otus contributed both text and illustrations. Can you tell us a little about the origins of this product? Our D&D group was heavy into creating new monsters, new magic spells and new character classes. Several of our players were also excellent artists, some were pretty good writers and we all wanted to earn our own money! Erol had illustrated David Hargrave's ground-breaking Arduin Grimoire and Erol, Mat and I were certain that we could publish our D&D ideas in some form. A friend of ours, Cliff Perotti, had been collecting all the magic spells he could find into an informal "Spellcaster's Bible." Erol, Mat and I decided that we would create our own spell book, stripping out any system-specific rules so that it could be used in Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls, The Fantasy Trip or any other RPG. The book was called The Necromican (whose name was indeed a simplified riff off of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred's evil book of magical secrets) and had some pretty dang cool stuff in there (there are still some copies on Ebay, I think.) Erol, Mat and I wrote the text, Erol penned all the illustrations and my mom Georgiann (the world's first Star Control II fan), typed the whole thing on her Selectric II. We had 500 copies made at the local Kinko's and sold out most of the run at the local D&D convention, Dundracon. We then negotiated (and I use the term loosely) a "jobbing deal" with Lou Zocchi (about whom an entire book could/should be written) and sold several thousand copies around the world. Based on the success of The Necromican, we started on a similar work of monsters and treasure called Booty and the Beasts. This time we actually used a word processor at my mom's law office in downtown San Francisco! Booty and the Beasts was our last big project, because Erol moved off to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to work for TSR Hobbies, though we did put out two little products, a nicely illustrated magical artifact generation system and a set of geomorphic mini-dungeon modules. 3. How did you come to be hired by TSR? Did your independent design work catch the eye of someone in Lake Geneva? Erol had been hired as an artist a year earlier and I when I went out to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for a visit, I looked at the work being done by TSR's designers and thought "I can do that!" I wrote a quick module, The Temple of Poseidon, and sent it back to TSR along with my CV and copies of Booty and the Beasts and The Necromican. I was initially hired as a "game developer," editing and fleshing out the work of other designers. About 4 months later, I became a game designer and was assigned defining rules for high-level D&D games whose characters were 15-30th level. My work was never published intact (in truth, it was a little crazy), but bits and pieces did come out in the Master and Companion rules sets. 4. Perhaps your most lasting contribution to D&D was the thri-kreen race, which first appeared in the AD&D Monster Cards. Is there any truth to the long-held suspicion that they were inspired by the phraints from Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoires?

At the time, I thought TSR needed a good insectoid enemy which was intelligent and weapon-using. I was aware of phraints and I certainly can't say I came up with the idea of bug-men entirely on my own -- I was mostly driven by images of mantis creatures and the warlike cultures of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" series. The spinning crystal disc weapon hearkened to Star Trek's kligat thrown blade ("as dangerous as a hand phaser at close range"). So I guess instead of being a simple "phraint thief," I am a super "steals-good-ideas-from-all-over-theplace" kind of thief. 5. A lot of your TSR work was for the Gamma World game. How did you become involved with it? Was the game a particular favorite of yours? I love Gamma World because it didn't take itself too seriously, which has always been important to me. In fact, in many ways Gamma World was more like our D&D campaigns that the official rules, because we were always mixing robots, laser guns, and mutants into the traditional fantasy ingredients. Also, as the most junior designer at TSR, I jumped at the opportunity to edit and "fill out" a Gamma World module written by Gary Gygax and his son Luke. As a reader and day dreamer, I probably spend equal time in science-fiction, fantasy and post-holocaust, so Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World were right up my alley. Blackmoor too, I guess. 6. The willingness to mix fantasy and science fiction ideas seems to have been much greater in the early days of the hobby. Is that willingness something you've brought to your own work, both in tabletop RPGs and in computer games? I love imagining fantastic adventures in all kinds of settings and time periods, but my brain is not divided into neat genres. Perhaps I integrated Arthur C. Clarke's comparison between magic and science at such a deep level that I have a hard time with such categorizations. Think about the magic in Jack Vance's D&D-inspiring The Dying Earth stories: were they powered by supernatural forces, ancient super-science, or aliens from other dimensions? And aren't his stories more interesting because he never entirely answers that question? Many of the books I have enjoyed in the 60's and 70's would be called "cross-overs" today, including stories like Zelazney's Nine Princes in Amber, Saberhagen's Empire of the East trilogy, and even Heinlein's Glory Road. While genres are convenient for business purposes, I think they sever the corpus calosum of imaginative literature. I think I have always struggled to bridge these artificially created divisions, both in theme and in structure, as with the strategy/action hybrid video games, Archon and Star Control. 7. I very fondly remember the game Archon from the mid-80s. I'm a bit embarrassed to mention that, until recently, I had no idea that you'd worked on it. What inspired that game and do you have any particular memories of its development? Wow, that is opening up a whole other can of memory worms! For today, let's just say that Archon was a perfect transition from the world of Dungeons & Dragons into the then-emerging field of computer games and that I was extremely fortunate to work on it with Jon Freeman, Anne Westfall, and Robert Leyland -- three of the best and most experienced computer game developers of that time. 8. You're probably one of the first pen and paper RPG designers I recall having "jumped ship" to the computer games industry. What sparked that decision and how would you characterize the differences between the two industries? I met Jon Freeman in 1980 at D&D convention where he was showing off one of the very first fantasy computer games, The Datestones of Ryn. Having learned to program in BASIC at Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, I could see how it was put together and I was pretty sure I could make it better. Jon's initial interest in me was

learning how to publish his own FRP system in the paper world, but eventually we settled on working together on a computer game. I must admit, when TSR shortly thereafter offered me a job, I bailed on Jon and flew off to Wisconsin. He continued on to create other seminal fantasy and science-fiction games at his company, Automated Simulations. TSR was an amazing, wonderful and fun-filled experience for me, but I was 18 and fairly new to the whole being an adult thing, so when I bought some company stock (5 $100 shares), I thought it gave me a right to speak up when I saw something funky happening at the company. I protested about the crazy expense of buying a Porsche as a company car for one of the executives and got myself unemployed pretty dang fast, along with Evan Robinson and Kevin Hendryx. By that time, less than a year after buying the stock, it had risen to over $1000 per share, so Evan and I cashed in and headed back to California via Canada and a minor disagreement with their government about the definition of "assault weapon." Long story. When I got back to California I studied field geology at UC Berkeley and rekindled my friendship with Jon Freeman and his new partner, Anne Westfall. Together with Robert Leyland, we formed Free Fall Associates and created two of Electronic Arts' first seven games, Archon and Murder on the Zinderneuf. The difference between the two industries back then? Well, there was about 10 times as much money in computer games and 1/10th the number of people, plus my hybrid of skills was pretty rare so it was a natural fit for me. In terms of people, there were lots of engineers and other super-smartypants (who make the best friends, because they are witty and interesting and make me look handsome and manly by comparison.) 9. Do you still play tabletop RPGs nowadays and, if so, which ones do you play? Yes, recently Erol, Fred Ford, and a few of our friends have been trying out 4.0 in a fun island adventure of Erol's creation. Jeez! -- first level characters are like gods compared to the last time I played, which was 1st Edition. A magic missle every round -- forever? Give me a month and my Mujongie War Wizard will turn a castle to dust! Posted by James Maliszewski at 1:30 PM 15 comments Labels: gamma world, history, interview, otus, reiche, tsr

FRIDA Y, J UNE 12, 2009

FYI: Darlene Interview
The rest of the interview with Darlene, along the first portion, will re-appear shortly. Darlene wanted to make some clarifications/expansions to things she'd said and asked for some additional time to do so. Given the high level of interest in this particular interview, I readily agreed. Likewise, all my interviewees participate as a favor to me, so I am quite happy to make any accommodations they request of me. In the meantime, let me say that I have several more interviews in the works, including one potentially astounding one. Expect to see those in the days and weeks to come. Posted by James Maliszewski at 8:16 AM Labels: interview, news

SA TURDA Y, MA Y 16, 2009

An Interview with Lawrence Schick

Between 1979 and 1981, Lawrence Schick was employed by TSR Hobbies, during which time he was involved in numerous projects for both Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs, such as Star Frontiers, which he co-designed with David Cook. I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few question about his time with TSR and more generally about his involvement in the game industry. 1. How did you first become involved in roleplaying? In college at Kent State University in Ohio; my friend Tom Moldvay came back from a science fiction convention with a Xeroxed copy of the D&D white box rules – albeit missing a few key pages (as we later discovered). Though we didn’t have anyone to teach us how to play, we grasped the idea immediately, and very quickly began making up our own supplemental rules. 2. You're the author of White Plume Mountain, which remains one of the most famous of all AD&D modules ever produced, both because of its many unique puzzles and traps, as well as the presence of magic sword Blackrazor. What were your inspirations in creating this adventure? White Plume Mountain was written as a sample document to persuade TSR to hire me as a game designer. I just plundered all the dungeons I’d designed over the previous four years, took out the best bits, and cobbled it all together. It worked; TSR hired me, bought the scenario, and published it as a module without changing a word. I’m a little embarrassed to this day by Blackrazor, inasmuch as it’s such a blatant rip-off of Elric’s Stormbringer; I would not have put it into the scenario if I ever thought it might be published. 3. Gary Gygax thanks you by name for your contributions to the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. Do you recall what you contributed to this book? When I started work at TSR in January of 1979 Gygax handed me this huge, sprawling, unorganized manuscript and said, “Here’s the Dungeon Masters Guide – edit this.” So I did. There were a few things he wanted to include that he didn’t particularly want to write; for those parts he told me what he wanted, and I wrote them. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the original DMG at hand – I lost all my D&D stuff in my recent divorce – but I recall writing the Example of Play, some of the advice for Dungeon Masters, and a number of other bits here and there. But it was all under Gary’s direction, and he certainly deserves all the credit. 4. I believe that you were involved in the organization of D&D tournaments for TSR in the early days. Is that correct and, if so, did you see tournament play as an important part of the growth and development of the game? The early TSR management consisted almost entirely of hardcore gamers who loved tournaments for their own sake and insisted that they be part of every convention TSR sponsored or participated in. So despite the fact that tournaments appealed to a very small percentage of D&D players, and designing for and managing tournaments drained development resources that could have been spent on publishing more or better products, we did lots of them. When I was head of the studio mid-’79 to mid-’81 I tried to make sure that any tournament scenarios we wrote could be repurposed as modules, but they’re two different animals, so we weren’t always successful. The A1-4 series of AD&D modules, for example, were originally written for a big tournament. I enjoyed tournaments as much as anyone, but I did not, in fact, regard them as “an important part of the growth and development of the game.” I thought they were a distraction from what we should really have been doing, which was figuring out how to reach a broader audience. Eventually TSR came around to this idea, and created the RPGA to handle tournaments and suchlike hardcore community-building work. 5. It's interesting that you called tournaments "a distraction," because that's a view shared by many fans of

older editions of D&D. Are there any particular approaches or projects that, in retrospect, you wish had been undertaken, because they would have done a better job of reaching out to a broader audience? A more professional approach to publishing, instead of rampant cronyism and callous exploitation of the D&D fan base, would have enabled TSR to reach beyond the niche and find a broader audience. D&D would have been able to co-opt computer RPGs and collectible card games, instead of being steam-rollered by them. Ultimately Gygax and the Blumes were unable to transition effectively to the mass market, and thus lost control of their product and brand. I mean, I was only 24-25 years old in those days, and even then I could see where they were going wrong. They were done in by greed and arrogance. 6. You left the roleplaying world professionally many years ago. Are you still involved in the hobby? My role-playing résumé is long and varied, and continues to this day. Here are the highlights: - 1979-1981: Game designer for TSR. - 1980s: occasional scenarios for game publishers (a DC Heroes for Mayfair, a Traveller for GDW), plus articles in RPG magazines. - 1987-1993: Game designer for MicroProse software, eventually Producer of Role-Playing Games for them, including BloodNet, an Adventure/RPG. - 1991: Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games published by Prometheus Press. - 1990-1994 (sideline): Leader of Cruel Hoax Productions, a troupe of six who wrote and produced live-action role-playing games (LARPs) for 50-100 players. Invented Romance rules for LARPs. - 1995-1999: General Manager and then Executive Director of all games for America Online (AOL); pioneered programming of casual games for a mass audience, while simultaneously pushing early MMO RPGs for hardcore gamers, which included (among many others) the original Neverwinter Nights and Ultima Online. - 2007-2009: Joined Big Huge Games in Maryland to work with old friends Ken Rolston (Oblivion) and Brian Reynolds (Colonization; Rise of Nations) on a triple-A single-player RPG for Xbox and PS3; did system design and lead narrative design for their (now-canceled) game Ascendant. - 2009: I have accepted an offer from ZeniMax Online Studio to be their Lead Content Designer on an unannounced MMO RPG, and will be starting there in two weeks. 7. Do you still get the opportunity to play traditional tabletop RPGs? Sometimes at conventions. I play tabletop RPGs, miniatures games, and LARPs several times a year. But mostly I play console and PC RPGs, because that's what I make, and I need to stay current. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: interview, schick 15 comments

WEDN ESDA Y, A PRIL 29, 2009

Erol Otus Interview
I haven't had the pleasure of interviewing Erol Otus, but Matt Staggs did and the results are available here. Posted by James Maliszewski at 4:21 PM Labels: interview, other blogs, otus 16 comments

TUESDA Y, A PRIL 28, 2009

Ignatius Ümlaut Interview
You can read a brief interview on Lulu.com with Ignatius Ümlaut, the editor of Fight On! here. Posted by James Maliszewski at 7:54 PM Labels: fight on, interview 0 comments

SUNDA Y, A PRIL 26, 2009

An Interview with Liz Danforth (Part II)
5. I also recall seeing your artwork in a couple of GDW's Traveller products, most notably The Traveller Adventure, which remains a favorite of mine. Did you find illustrating a science fiction RPG more challenging than illustrating a fantasy one? I did quite a lot for GDW, actually — they were one of my primary clients for many years. As a reader of the science fiction/fantasy genre as a kid, I preferred hard science fiction to fantasy. It wasn’t until I stumbled on Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser than I learned to love fantasy. So I was perfectly happy to illustrate in both genres. That said, the answer to your question is Yes, SF is harder for me than fantasy. Why? Not because one is mushy in terms of research to create believable images but because I am someone who prefers organic shapes. This is a topic I’ve discussed with other artists, and I find most artists have a decided preference — either for mechanicals or for organics. We can learn to do either, but one takes more effort. For me, mechanical things are hard. I just don’t “see” them. Moreover, because one of my early influences was Art Nouveau and the likes of Aubrey Beardsley, my work has a strong “graphic design” look. Shape and flow are often where I start a drawing’s idea, so perspective took some retroactive learning on my part — particularly because I was almost entirely self-educated in art. (My bachelor’s was Anthropology.) It is extraordinarily difficult to do convincing mechanicals until you know about perspective and vanishing points, and are willing to use a straightedge or other such tools. 6. You've continued to do gaming projects over the last 30 years. I take it that the hobby is still something you enjoy participating in? I certainly do. The hobby has done much to shape my life and while I’ve rarely been a high profile “personality,” I have always considered myself a gamer and working professional in the field. The last half-dozen years I was as distant from the hobby as at any time in my life and career. Everything in my life was in transition and almost all of it was exceedingly unpleasant and problematic. Now things have re-stabilized after far too long, and I’m glad to say that working in the hobby again is one of the things I’m enjoying getting back to. It’s not the same as it was before, but I am as excited by what I’m doing now as I was when I started my career at 20-something. It’s

not many people who get to do two wonderful things in their lives, and I am incredibly lucky in that respect. 7. My wife is a school librarian and was very excited when I told her about the project you're doing with the American Library Association. Can you tell us a bit about that project? That’s what is so amazing about where I am right now. This is a LONG story, so you’ll have to bear with me. History: Twenty, twenty-five years ago, libraries and schools met gamers at the gates with pitchforks and torches. D&D was castigated as the devil’s work, Magic cards made kids into thieves and muggers, and the nascent video games were destroying children’s minds and morals — if you believed all the bad press. Flash forward to the present, and the gamer generation grew up to become good citizens, attentive parents, desirable employees and respected entrepreneurs. For the last ten years or more, academia has been studying gamers — the video game generation mostly, but the older gamer crowd has gotten some attention also. What they’re finding, with reports released in peer-reviewed journals and at major conferences, is that by and large gaming can be very good for you. It develops a variety of cognitive processing skills; the MMORPGs develop leadership skills without regard to age, gender, or social demographics; the FPS games improve spatial processing skills important to engineers and scientists of various types; many games including RPGs enhance understanding of math, economics, and teamwork; and so much more. Games are strongly social, not isolating, and most people play with friends and family preferentially, whether in the same room or across great distances. The stories I hear that make me smile most are about parents who play games with their sons and daughters. Not only is that smart parenting, it is just plain fun for everyone concerned. Learning: Gaming of all kinds encourages reading and literacy even if you consider only printed matter to be “literacy.” There are countless tie-in books, graphic novels, strategy guides and cheat code books about almost every game ever made. The Pokémon cards rely on multiple nested conditional sentences well above the average reading level for the youngest kids playing the game — their motivation to do well in the game raises their motivation to acquire the vocabulary and parse the sentence construction. Several of the New York Times bestselling authors of today learned their craft writing for games first; I edited work by both Michael Stackpole and RA Salvatore in their earliest gaming days, before they had a single novel out. Ray Feist, Margaret Weis, and Kevin Anderson would have had quite different careers but for gaming. Today, fanfiction.net has tens of thousands of stories inspired by games and game worlds (Final Fantasy alone appears to have about 40,000 stories), and that is just one website! The converse is also true; through games you can explore the worlds created by authors like HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, and of course JRR Tolkien, to name just a few. Further, if you look into the “21st Century learning skills” as outlined by the influential The Partnership for a 21st Century Skills, then gaming encourages most of the key technological literacies that tomorrow’s citizens and employees will need to succeed. The 21st C learning skills are of particular interest to me. Right now I am completing a research survey on how some of these skills might be acquired in WoW and their transference to real life. Results are mixed about WoW in particular, in part because a number of respondents are telling me they learned the skills in other games, particularly the RPGs. The positive anecdotal evidence I’m hearing is astounding: people telling me some truly amazing stories about what a positive impact the game has had on their lives: medical techs who feel they keep a more level head under pressure during surgery because of their experience in PvP; how a guild’s best raid leader — the tactician and strategy communicator leading up to 40 players into difficult conditions — turned out to be an 11-year old boy; how many women find themselves guild leaders when they’ve never been “leaders” of anything before. Over and over again, people talk about what deep and abiding friendships they’ve made through

the game, friends they have since gotten to know well who they have since met face to face in real life. WoW gets a lot of bad press because it is a highly engaging, immersive game that can eat your free time and all your attention if you don’t have time management skills and understand the need to balance it as part of your whole life — but those also are skills you’ll learn in WoW if you don’t enter the game having them! Libraries: What does all this have to do with the American Library Association? In 2006 I attended the first ALA Techsource Symposium on games, learning and libraries. I only became aware that games were of interest to libraries the year before, when I started on the road to getting my MLS. My mentor encouraged me to combine the two parts of my life. I’d been working 16 years in libraries already, as a part time paraprofessional — paralibrarian, we’re now being called — while making most of my living doing freelance for the game industry. Freelancing has its financial ups and downs, and my library system in Phoenix was very flexible if I needed free time to devote to a major project (as when I took a 3-month leave of absence to write the T&T computer game for New World Computing.) I only remembered the BADD old days and was frankly astonished how much had changed. The Techsource Symposium opened my eyes to how far libraries had come, and I got to meet some of those leading the change, visionaries like Jenny Levine and Eli Neiburger and Beth Gallaway. I told Jenny how very impressed I was, and to let me know if there was ever anything I could do for her or for ALA since I still had contacts in the game industry and a deep understanding of the profession. To my surprise, she took me up on it. In March of 2008 she and Dale Lipschultz asked if I’d like to work with a dozen others as part of the “grant experts team” being formed to carry out a two-year, million dollar “Libraries, Literacy, and Gaming” grant funded by the Verizon Foundation. Our job was to look at what the best libraries were already doing with gaming in the library, and then fund 10 new libraries to do new or expanded gaming programs. We put together a “best practices” toolkit that libraries everywhere could use, and the 10 funded libraries would let us “playtest,” refine and expand the toolkit too. The team received 390 eligible requests for grant monies when the Request For Proposal went out. It was overwhelming. We had every kind of library coming forward — public, academic, and school libraries, from small towns, large urban areas, tribal libraries, and everything in between. The best 10% were given to the grants team to review — I read 10 proposals myself — and it broke my heart to know that only 10 libraries out of that 390 could be funded. Some were just amazing. As I write this, the winning libraries have been selected and informed, but not yet publicly announced. I am eager to see what has been chosen. I hope that there are ways to acknowledge and perhaps adapt some of the ideas of gaming librarians whose requests didn’t get funded. The energy, drive, and innovation I read in just the 10 proposals I saw were enough to rock me back on my heels. And coming full circle: My eyes and hands are getting old, and doing art as much as I used to is growing ever more difficult. I’m a huge adopter of Web 2.0 but not for art, where I’ve found the learning curve just too steep. I still paint and draw largely by hand, although I’m passingly conversant with things like Photoshop and other graphic programs. The fact that I can bring my knowledge of the industry and my love of games and gaming to the service of libraries, which I also have loved for decades, makes an amazingly satisfying combination as I look to the future. For the games industry itself, I’m looking to do more writing and editing, as well as what art jobs cross my path — I can’t give it up entirely and don’t want to! — and I’m also working assertively on fiction writing which I mostly had to abandon in past years, although I expected to be a novelist long before I ever achieved recognition

for my artwork. Sometimes life takes you on unusual paths and I’ve always been one to follow my nose to the projects and places that interest me the most. I’ve been lucky enough to find people willing to pay me to do what I love. There could be no better life, I think. Or, as Michael Stephens said (of TametheWeb.com): learn to learn, adapt to change, scan the horizon, be curious, bring your <3 with you. Words to live by, whatever your profession. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM 9 comments Labels: danforth, interview, tnt, traveller, world of warcraft

SA TURDA Y, A PRIL 25, 2009

An Interview with Liz Danforth (Part I)
I've mentioned many times before that I was a huge fan of Traveller back in the day and that I considered The Traveller Adventure one of the few near-perfect products ever made for any roleplaying game in the history of the hobby. Among the many things that made that product so special were its illustrations, many of them created by Liz Danforth. Of course, Liz's illustrations aren't limited to Traveller; she's probably better known for her work on Tunnels & Trolls, with which she's been associated since the game's beginning, at the dawn of the hobby. Liz kindly agred to answer some questions for me, the first part of them being posted here today. Part II will be posted tomorrow. 1. How did you initially become involved in roleplaying games? I was part of the local science fiction club when I was in college, many decades ago. The group included a bunch of board gamers who played Risk, Regatta, and Diplomacy variants, and I enjoyed that. The gamer group included Ken St. Andre, who looked at the original early D&D and felt it was a cool idea but "way too complicated." He created Tunnels & Trolls, and so that is what all of us played. I did illustrations for the early game and eventually worked for Flying Buffalo Inc, the publisher of T&T. Working for Buffalo, I attended many game cons, I met the rest of the industry and did a lot of freelance work for anyone who wanted the skills I had to offer — art, of course, but also writing, editing, game development and scenario design. I had the time of my life, honestly. 2. In the early days, the hobby was a lot more strongly male-dominated than it is now. Did that make working in it more difficult or were those early gamers a lot more open-minded than they're given credit for nowadays? My first Origins — which was about 1976, near as I can recall — it seemed like every guy on the hall was staring at my chest. I was damn near the only female in the place. No one was unkind or truly rude, though. They just couldn’t believe I knew games, played games, or worked for a game company. They all figured I was somebody’s girlfriend, I think. That said, I never ever had problems working in the industry as a female. People could tell I knew what I was talking about after a short time, and were willing to give me exactly the same opportunities they’d give any other artist, writer, or editor. My work spoke for itself and the rare examples of misogyny were just that — very rare. 3. The earliest product I recall seeing your artwork in was Monsters! Monsters! from Metagaming. Did you enjoy working on that book and, if so, why? That was another Ken St. Andre game and me and my gamer friends — Bear Peters, Steve McAllister, Ugly John

Carver, and Ken mainly, with a smattering of others — were the ones playing it while he developed the design. We all participated. It was strongly based on T&T but Ken choose to go with Metagaming instead of Flying Buffalo at that particular time. I don’t recall if that was before or after the art I did for Steve Jackson’s early design for Melee (which eventually grew into GURPS), but M!M! was my first color cover for a game, if I remember right. It was a very long time ago! As an aside, Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo and I are talking about completing the rewrite and re-release of M!M! It seems to have a small but vocal following though it has been out of print for years. Bear Peters did a first draft rewrite (he was always the most wonderful of M!M! GMs, having overseen the burning of Khosht, which was our “home town” for both T&T and M!M! games) and that’s what I’d be working with. I have to put together the next Citybook for Buffalo before I get to M!M! though. 4. For a lot of gamers, your artwork will forever be associated with Flying Buffalo's Tunnels & Trolls. Is T&T still near and dear to your heart? Absolutely! I loved the game then and still do. I also wrote/edited the Fifth Edition which a lot of people tell me they still play. I don’t play face to face RPGs much any more, I admit. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft puts all the dice rolling and charts into the background, and that makes play immediate and seamless. I like that. That said, my old friend Bear refuses to get into the game because you have to kill the monsters instead of being clever and witty; he says he’ll only play an MMORPG when you can wheedle a dragon out of its gold. He’s right, but the old T&T gang has dispersed to different cities as our lives have unfolded — but I can still play with some of my old friends through WoW, regardless of where we now live. Who I play with has always been more important to me than what game I’m playing. That said, I find World of Warcraft deeply engaging and interesting not only as my entertainment but also as a game design, an intellectual property, and a fingerpost to the way gaming will change in the future. I’m conducting some academic research, a byproduct of getting my masters degree, looking at what are called the 21st Century learning skills acquired in WoW that may transfer to real life. The core data isn’t coming together as strongly as I expected — it is excellent but not emphatic — but the anecdotal stories accompanying the survey put me in awe, frankly. People are getting a very great deal more out of the game than mindless entertainment, that’s for darn sure. Posted by James Maliszewski at 7:07 PM 13 comments Labels: art, danforth, interview, tnt, traveller, world of warcraft

TUESDA Y, A PRIL 21, 2009

Interviews
People seem to enjoy the interviews I've done in the past, so you'll be seeing quite a few more in the future. I'm currently in contact with five individuals associated with the early days of the hobby who've all agreed to be interviewed. In some cases, the process of setting up the interviews is taking longer than I'd hoped it would, but I'm patient and willing to wait, since several of these individuals will no doubt have some interesting things to say. One of the goals of this blog, after all, is unearthing as much of the history of the hobby as possible. Since I was a mere child when much of that history happened and because so few people have bothered to record this history, I'm pretty much at the mercy of my sources. So, if you're someone from the early days (1974-1983, in particular) or you know someone from that era, I'd be very interested in interviewing you. Thanks.

Posted by James Maliszewski at 9:47 AM Labels: interview, news

3 comments

SA TURDA Y, A PRIL 18, 2009

An Interview with Lee Gold
As someone who entered the hobby as part of its second generation, I find myself deeply fascinated by that first generation of gamers, my elders in the hobby. I knew and interacted with some of these people as a kid, meeting them in hobby stores or through one of my friends' fathers, who were wargamers. It was from them that I first learned of the legendary APA, Alarums and Excursions, in whose pages appeared many of the writers and ideas that would eventually infuence the hobby profoundly. A&E is one of the few unbroken connections between the present day and the dawn of the hobby, in part due to its indefatigable publisher, Lee Gold, whose labors have ensured its regular monthly release, with only two exceptions in the entirety of its 34-year existence. Lee graciously consented to answer a few questions about her involvement in the hobby and in A&E, which I reproduce here with my thanks. 1. How did you first become involved in the roleplaying games hobby? Our friends, Owen & Hilda Hannifen, came down from San Francisco to visit us, with a copy of the Original D&D rules. My husband and I were fascinated, and they lent us a photocopy of the rules, on seeing us write a check to TSR to order our own copy, so we wouldn't have to wait till the rules arrived (in a brown box) from TSR. 2. Alarums and Excursions began in 1975 and now has published over 400 issues. Can you provide some background on A&E's origins? Alarums and Excursions #403 was the April, 2009 issue. #404 will be the May, 2009 issue. Deadline is typically the 21st of the month, at 5 PM Los Angeles time (so in the summer it's Daylight Savings Time). See here for further details. Back in 1974 or 1975, a number of us were discussing D&D and other RPGs in APA-L, the weekly APA collated each Thursday night at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, a science fiction fan club. Bruce Pelz, a LASFSian and APA-Ler, who wasn't a roleplayer, was bored by all this and asked us to start our own APA. It seemed like a good idea so I did, offering to print contributors' zines for them. We started with gamers I knew: some in Los Angeles, some like the Hannifens in the San Francisco area, some like former-LA dweller Mark Swanson in the Boston area. And we spread by word of mouth. In August of 1975, my husband and I went off to Japan for four months when his employer transferred him there, and we returned in mid-December to find that Jack Harness (who I'd asked to edit A&E while I was gone) had only brought out three issues in those four months. On the other hand, he'd gotten more subscribers, a good thing. I set a firm deadline for January 1976, and got A&E reliably running again. Since then the only time we've missed a month was in 2006 when I knew I had major surgery scheduled, and announced well in advance that we'd be skipping the July 21st deadline. 3. Are there any articles from A&E that have stuck with you after all these years as being ground-breaking

or significant? That is, are there any articles you consider classics? A&E is a collection of zines (each zine being a short amateur magazine, aka "fanzines" or "zine"), not "articles." A zine may include essays, comments on previous issues, poems or songs, a writeup of a gameplaying session, artwork, and just about anything imaginable. I remember zines from Dave Hargrave giving tidbits of the Arduin Grimoires, Steve Perrin's "Perrin Conventions" (which were the start of the system that later grew into Runequest), Ed Simbalist's and Wilf Backhaus's discussion of C&S, John T. Sapienza, Jr.'s discussion of various game systems, and other professional and semi-professional writers. I remember Mark Swanson's "character traits," a way of individuating characters with minor bonuses and minuses. I remember Wes Ives' essay on how to integrate player characters into a major wargamed battle (which later got republished in the C&S Sourcebooks). I remember a number of people (including myself) getting tapped to write games professionally because RPG publishers read their A&Ezines. I remember writing "You Bash the Balrog" (to the tune of "Waltzing Matilda." There have been a lot of wonderful contributions in A&E over the years. 4. In the early days of the hobby, APAs like A&E played a role very similar to that played by the Internet today. Has the rise of online sites, forums, and blogs had any effect, positive or negative, on A&E in recent years? Probably these sites (and also mailing lists and newsgroups) have affected A&E, but I'm not sure what all the effects are. Probably some effects are positive and some are negative. I think because A&E only comes out once a month, people take a bit more care writing their zines than they do for an online site, which will let them easily write in to correct or amplify their original statements only a few hours or a day or a week later, instead of having to wait another month. I think the greatest negative effects on A&E in modern times are the soaring cost of paper and of postage. I introduced the emailed electronic subscription some years back, when the postal service discontinued the Printed Matter rate to the non-US, and have since made it also available to those living in the US. About a third of the subscribers now take A&E electronically, rather than on printed paper. The emailed issue is only $2 total -- or free to anyone who contributed to that issue or the previous issue, but contributors pay $1.75/page contributed. 5. It's sometimes been said that the roleplaying scene on the West Coast was much different than that in the Midwest, where the hobby began. Do you think this is true and, if so, what would you say were the key differences between the scenes? I've played in LA, San Francisco and Boston, but never in the Midwest, so I can't compare Midwest Style to the styles I know. I do know that A&Eers weren't content with the D&D rules as written. Most of them dropped Vancian magic (use a spell once and lose it) for a spell point system which would let you throw the same spell again and again. Players typically had one or two PCs each, but never drone followers, so though there might be a formal "party leader" (sometimes a lieutenant in charge of strategy, plus a sergeant in charge of tactics), there wasn't one "party caller" as shown in Original D&D's sample adventure. We delighted in the flexibility of Original D&D: making up not just our own worlds but our own creatures and character classes, our own weapons and armor and spells. Bards showed up in an early issue of A&E, for instance. So did hoop snakes and larls and many other creatures from myth, legend, science fiction and fantasy. A&E still is a community with a lot of new ideas -- and discussion of previous months' new ideas. There are currently contributors from across the US, plus England and Ireland. In the past, we've also had contributors from

Canada (one of whom still contributes but moved to Maryland), Australia, Scandinavia, Italy and France. 6. Do you still roleplay? If so, what games do you currently enjoy? I run a roleplaying game once a month, juggling a number of different campaigns. My gaming style is fairly freeform, but sometimes I resort to using my Lands of Adventure rules. I write up the month's adventures in A&E. My husband Barry is one of the players. The players include old friends, plus one old friend's teenaged daughter is also a member of the player group. Posted by James Maliszewski at 10:55 AM Labels: AnE, gold, history, interview 12 comments

SUNDA Y, N OVEMB ER 9, 2008

Coming Attractions
Just to let you know: I have not one but interviews in the works to appear on this blog, both with individuals who've been connected to the hobby for quite some time. The first is Mike Mornard, a long-time player who enjoys the rare distinction of having been part of the campaigns of Dave Arneson, M.A.R. Barker, and Gary Gygax. The second is Bill Owen, co-founded of the inimitable Judges Guild with the late Bob Bledsaw. Once both interviews are complete and in readable form, I'll post them here. Posted by James Maliszewski at 11:09 AM Labels: interview, news 3 comments

SA TURDA Y, SEPTEMBER 20, 2008

Interview: Tim Kask (Part III)
If you could dispel one common misapprehension that gamers today have about the early days of the hobby, what would it be? I don’t know. What are the perceptions of those “good old days?" To be honest, I seldom paid attention to any of that after our little birthing process; I was far too busy with TSR Periodicals and the magazines. Oh, I know one. No, it is not true that none of us understood personal hygiene. Many didn’t, but most of us did remember to bathe or shower frequently enough so as to not offend too many people around us. But some of those old cons could get ripe enough. I guess it is from that old perception that the term for a group of gamers, like a murder of crows, a sleuth of bears or a bevy of quail, would be stink; how elegant-a stink of gamers. Is there anything you miss about the early days of the hobby? The diversity of products published. BITD, anyone with a little money could put out their own games or rules sets. We had a lot more diversity before the days of the Hasborg. Do you see new technology, like print-on-demand, making it possible to recreate the good old days when anyone with an idea might publish their own games or rules sets? If not, what's changed to make this less likely? Who said they were good? Some of the stuff that was self-published was self-published for a good reason; it was dreck. You sent your money and took your chances.

Some few pearls did exist out there, but they were few and far between. One of the best boardgames I ever saw (for a variety of reasons) never got beyond a basement operation that published maybe a couple of thousand copies. The fatal flaw that denied it wider acceptance at the time was the recordkeeping. Today, if it was on PC and did all the recording automatically, it would be a singular game, in my opinion. But it was lost in the sea of dreck. Having said that much, let me contradict myself a little. I am sure that there are a few designers out there, primarily of campaigns/scenarios/modules/adventures (whatever you wish to call them) that could make a few bucks doing P-O-D. But, as good as they have proven themselves to be, why should they when the established companies are more than willing to publish them and they will make more? I might be able to write a campaign adventure and perhaps sell a few hundred at $5 or even $10 apiece to download PDFs. I might make a thousand or two; if I sold it to one of the established companies with a distribution network, they might sell 20K copies from which I might get $1 each. Of course, I am making the assumption that anyone might buy because I wrote it. Do you still have the chance to play D&D these days? The first time I played D&D in over twenty years was for the Tower of Gygax event at GenCon 2008. I am assuming that playing is both DMing and adventuring, I haven't played a PC since the days of playtesting modules at TSR. One of my long-time PCs ended up as an NPC in the Hommlet module. I gave up playing as a PC when I became my group's DM in '74. Now, if the ToG is repeated next year, I will do it. I have committed to run two, four hour adventures at next year's Lake Geneva Game Convention in June, as part of the "Gary's Virtual Porch" memorial thing they are doing. Many thanks to Mr Kask for graciously consenting to this interview. I hope that his reminiscences and insights have been useful and interesting -- I know they were for me -- and I'll make every effort to line up some additional interviews to post here in the near future. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: DnD, history, interview, kask 6 comments

FRIDA Y, SEPTEMB ER 19, 2008

Interview: Tim Kask (Part II)
Your foreword calls Supplement IV "the last D&D supplement." In a certain sense, you were correct in saying this as there were no more OD&D -- back then, just D&D -- supplements in the offing, but it wasn't the end of "official" game material from TSR. What happened between the time you wrote this in 1976 and the appearance of the Monster Manual a year later? Since meeting, and becoming fast friends with, Frank Mentzer, I have come to see that he and I shared a position at TSR that was unique; that of Gary’s sounding board, idea-bouncer, collaborator, consultant and friendly goad. We talked D&D nearly every day; bouncing ideas off of each other and examining the rules system as it existed at that time. From the time we were working on Eldritch Wizardry, and preparing for Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, we knew that we were no longer just adding new stuff but also refining old stuff and changing things a little bit here and there. It was getting pretty confusing, and we had to do something about it. We also had other concerns, chief of which was how to conduct fair tournaments. Before the term came into vogue, we were marketing TSR virally; I was a perfect example. I played the game at a con, bought one and took it back to my group and infected them.

As the nature of the game dictated, it was meant to be only loosely bound by the rules as printed; they were originally meant as suggestions and guidelines. Finding 30 DMs to run a tourney for us was a big task in and of itself; finding 30 that played the game the same was impossible as each one ran his own campaigns as he saw fit. Gary Gygax thanks you in both the AD&D Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. What role did you play in the development of these two books or indeed the entire AD&D project? Continuing in the same vein as the answer to the previous question, we constantly bounced ideas off of each other. There came a time when we started to list all of the revisions and contradictions. We had other problems to address: level and gold piece inflation being two of them, as well as a too-steep learning curve. In the early days, we sold our game to college age buyers, bright high schoolers and the occasional socially challenged older gamer. As bright as they were in general, many of them had complained of the steep learning curve and seeming contradictions in subsequent supplements. No matter how much I tried to drum home the idea that these were suggestions, examples and guidelines in the Forewords that I wrote in each, people wanted to see them as new rules. And, we were starting to hear from parents that had bought the game as a result of their child’s cajolery, badgering or whining, only to find that it was too complex for their precious darlings to jump right in. On that point, I can certainly testify; had I not confidently announced that my club was going to have a go at this new game I was so enraptured with, I might not have spent three weeks trying to grasp enough of it to begin. And I had the benefit of having played it twice. All of these things Gary and I talked about, and more. It was decided to consult with someone with some background in child psych, and J. Eric Holmes came into the picture. So Holmes was brought in because of his background in child psychology? What was the rationale behind this? I can only say this, and it is all secondhand, what Gary told me, what I picked up, etc., as I was NOT part of this. Holmes was brought in to try to enable us to get a handle on a number of different things. Since I got my M. Ed., I understand much more of the rationale behind it. We needed to know such things as : What's too scary for young (9 to 14) kids to handle? We didn't want to cause nightmares. How complex can the rules be for that age to enjoy playing? How do we write "how-to-play" rules for players that young? We were dealing with the problem of the present rules being pretty complex and mystifying to kids a lot older. What kinds of magic were too complex for younger players, or less experienced. We had come to the point that we knew our new market would not be well read in Fantasy, and would be starting out at a disadvantage compared to the earlier adherents of the game. We needed to know how to overcome that. Returning to your role in the development of AD&D ... One Thursday, Gary told me to wrap up whatever I had going on at the moment and free up my days starting on the next Monday. Intrigued, I said sure. When I came in on Monday morning, Gary asked me into his office (we were still in the old grey house and had offices next to each other), then told whoever was answering the phone that neither of us was to be disturbed for anything but the direst emergency, or a call from our wives. He had about six sets of the small books and had put up several extra cork bulletin boards in office. For the next eight or nine days, we re-made D&D. We tinkered with various bits and pieces, changing and tweaking damages from various weapons and spells (Magic Missile comes to mind). At the end of that period of time, we had two files of papers and cut-up booklets; one was Basic, the other AD&D. Much less was left to interpretation; more was spelled out in charts and tables. We were looking at tourneys. We must have rolled several hundred different confrontations while we tinkered with HP and DAM. We cut up those books and stuck stuff all over the walls. From that came Basic D&D and Advanced D&D. I

was like the midwife at the birth. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: DnD, history, interview, kask, tsr 12 comments

THURSDA Y, SEPTEMBER 18, 2008

Interview: Tim Kask (Part I)
Tim Kask, TSR's first Publications Editor, has graciously consented to my asking him a few questions about the history of his involvement with the roleplaying hobby and the role he played in the early days of Dungeons & Dragons. Because many of Mr Kask's replies were lengthy, I have broken up his responses into multiple entries that I will post over the course of several days. I hope everyone will enjoy the details and insights these questions bring to light and I'd like to thank Mr Kask once more for his allowing me to interview him. It's my hope that this interview will be the first of series with individuals associated with the early days of the hobby. You note in the foreword to Gods, Demigods, & Heroes that your first assignment for TSR was Supplement II: Blackmoor. How did you come to be hired by the company and what was the extent of your duties as its "Publications Editor?" This is going to be a long answer because you have asked for a lot of background in just a few words. I first met Gary over the phone in late ’73 or early ’74, when I was a married student with a daughter at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. This came about because I called Directory Assistance (called Information back then) and asked for his number. I had seen the address of Lake Geneva in the back of the Chainmail rules, which were what I was calling him about. To be perfectly honest, I do not remember exactly what about. In any event, the phone was answered by a perfectly polite and friendly gent that did not seem in the least put out by having a stranger call him at home at night. (It was probably a Friday evening, after 9 PM when weekend discounts on Long Distance applied.) We must have talked for at least an hour, and we seemed to hit it off right away. I called a couple more times during the next several months, mostly talking about miniatures and miniatures rules, but also straying into many other areas, including my recent service in the USN in ‘Nam. Somewhere during the fall and winter of ’73-’74, Gary first mentioned this new game concept he was first working on, then published. He invited/challenged me to come to his game convention in August in Lake Geneva sometime in late May or early June. I worked it out to go up to the Quad Cities (where my wife and I grew up and had family), drop off my family and head up to LG. I was very naïve about GenCon, figuring I’d just find a motel somewhere not too far away and check it out. Condensed Version of the First GenCon. I drove up and we met face-to-face. I entered two miniatures tourneys and won them both. Somebody walked down the hall, at the Horticultural Hall where the con was held, calling out for a few players to come join in an “adventure” in that new game Gary had been talking about. (I am not sure, but I think that it was Rob Kuntz, who was just a kid then, while I was 25.) Remembering what Gary had gone on and on about, I signed up. I don’t remember a lot of details from the beginning of the adventure. I mostly sat quietly in the back trying to figure out what was going on. Somehow or other we ended up pissing somebody off and getting encased in some sort of clear substance like Lucite that allowed us to continue breathing. Next time I figured out what was going on, we were up in front of “Deus ex Machina” and lasered into little cubes the size of big dice. Well! That was different…

A couple of minutes later, I signed up for another adventure, this time as a dwarf. The condensed version of that was that I rescued a dying dwarf king with no heir, was granted the dwarf kingdom and given the Royal Seal. Then it was time to quit playing! I bought the old brown box set and a set of dice, talked to Gary a bit more where he told me to stay in touch and keep him informed of how it went with my game club when I introduced them to D&D, and headed back to my family. Gary and I had a private conversation where he told me of his plans to some degree and said that when I graduated next summer, there might well be job he could offer a good editor. When I got back to my game club, I announced that I had played in this really strange great game, and they were all going to have a chance to play real soon. Real soon stretched into about three weeks; I had no idea reading and understanding those three little books would be so tough. Had I not played, however poorly, I would not have had a clue. I whipped up some dungeon levels, we rolled some characters up that fateful Sat. morning, and my first campaign was under way. About once a month I would call Gary up and we would talk at length about what my group was doing, had done and how we had done it. We talked about lots of other things as well, and discovered we had even more in common than we had known. We both liked several of the same fantasy authors, had similar tastes in military history and even liked a lot of the same movies. After a couple of months of playing, about Christmas break, I announced that when they all came back after the holiday we would be generating new characters (using an average die for starting levels to recognize the fact that they were not complete greenhorns) and playing in a new campaign setting. I had gotten a copy of Greyhawk by then and wanted to incorporate some of it Thus was born my Ruins of Kwalishar campaign.[That name ought to sound familiar! -JM] I wrote out an elaborate basis for the campaign, and we never looked back until I graduated in Aug. of ’75. My monthly chats with Gary continued and I started tinkering with things as per Gary’s instructions and letting him know how it had worked out, what my players thought, etc. (It was only later that I realized that we had been play-testing for Gary.) I then went to GenCon ’75, met Brian Blume and made plans to move there in a month, which my family and I did. I was hired by Tactical Studies Rules, which a few weeks later was supplanted by TSR Hobbies, Inc.; I was the first full-time employee of both. First, and foremost, I was hired to be Gary’s editor. Anyone who has read any of Gary’s earliest writings knows that he loved the English language and more than that, loved to challenge his readers. Gary had cut his reading teeth on authors like Sir Walter Scott and Charles Lamb. Those guys could really craft a sentence, but took some reading to get comfortable with. They could not have written for USA Today or People Magazine; they were too tough to read for the casual or less schooled reader. Some of Gary’s writing was like that, almost Victorian in nature. My job was to take his stuff and boil it down a little for the rest of the world, without lessening the craft he put into it. I like to think I did that pretty well. (At Lake Geneva Game Convention III in 2007, Gary told me that of all the editors he had had, he most missed having me edit his writing. I felt honored and touched by that comment.) As for the rest of what I did, I edited the rest of the stuff we did. I took over The Strategic Review with issue #5, and our plans to eventually produce a real magazine began to take shape. I edited game manuscripts. But where I really began to learn my craft was with Blackmoor, the second D&D supplement. One day, after I had been there a couple of months, Gary and Brian were waiting for me that morning when I got to Gary’s house (we worked out of his basement) with what looked to be a bushel basket of scrap papers, like someone had cleaned out their desk, and sly smiles on their faces. I should have known something was up by those smiles… Dropping the basket at my feet, they announced that it contained the next supplement and that I should pitch right in. After stirring it a bit, I asked if they were serious, and they assured me that they were. It took the

better part of two days to sort it out, and another day or two to try to make some sense of it. When I reported back about a week later that what I had found was contradictory, confusing, incomplete, partially incomprehensible, lacking huge bits and pieces and mostly gibberish, they laughed and said they knew that. Both of them had already come to the same conclusion that if I was to be the editor, here was my acid test, and that neither one of them certainly wanted to do it. So over the next several weeks, I sorted, filled in, added and deleted. What came out was about 60% my work, 30% Dave Arneson’s and the remainder came from Gary and Rob Kuntz. I was reminded by Gary that the day I brought the finished manuscript in to him and Brian that I threatened to quit if ever I was given another “project” (read “basket case”) such as this one. For the next couple of years that what I did; edit the supplements, edit TSR, edit The Dragon and Little Wars after we spun them off out of TSR, proofread virtually everything we did, continue to be Gary’s editor, and all of my other TSR duties as well. Posted by James Maliszewski at 12:01 AM Labels: DnD, history, interview, kask, tsr 21 comments

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